What are some tips for VCs who want to make the transition to becoming founders? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
I was an operator before I was a VC so this is not my first time. As a VC, the job is meeting with founders and making decisions about whether or not to invest. It also involves determining if the the idea, market, and product are worth the time, and if you believe they have a good chance at attaining product-market fit, and of course, the team to get it done. I found it to be a fairly one directional job. Despite what some VCs might think or say, all the day-to-day - building the product, marketing it, figuring out how to grow, hiring, firing, and everything else that's involved in executing - is up to the founders. For me, this is the most fun part of entrepreneurship and honestly, I missed it! Some of the founders who I backed would probably tell you I meddled too much, but it's because I love the action, rolling up my sleeves, and wanting to be involved. So yes, it's been a change, but a welcome one. I can't imagine doing anything else right now and not sure if I'll ever go back to full-time investing.
For those VC's who are thinking of founding a company, I recommend the following:
Be frugal: As a VC, I routinely gave this advice to founders, and now I'm doing my best to follow it myself. When you're starting a company, you always need more money than you think you need. Expenses add up quickly and burn rates can put the brakes on your plans before you ever get started. It's important to lead by example in this area. I watch every penny and always know exactly how much money is in the bank. Just this morning, my co-founder and I had a call to discuss cash position and next six months of expenses.
Be mission-driven: At the risk of sounding histrionic, as a founder, I now believe being mission-driven is critical to success. Starting a company is a slog, and in the beginning, your days are some combination of stressful, tedious, or exhausting. Often, it's all three. There are so many logistics that need to be done just to keep the office up and running. Endless paperwork, email, and tough decisions hit your desk. My point here is not to complain, but to A) be honest, you need to know what you're signing up for, and B) outline why being mission-driven is so essential. Loving and believing in what you do will get you through the hard days.
Be open-minded: Part of building a successful company is being open to new ideas and knowing if and when to pivot. As a VC, I've seen this often. A founder becomes married to an idea that wasn't quite right and is too slow to change course. Think of the world's most successful companies. Uber started a black car service but added in UberX and Pool when they realized users wanted more affordable options. Amazon originally sold books, and now, there's nothing you can't buy. At Small Door, we've talked to countless pet parents and vets, and have made adjustments on our business model based on this feedback. Just because an idea is yours, it doesn't mean you need to defend it to the death.
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