Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers venture capitalist John Doerr admits he's a sucker for a good idea.
"I'm a junky for technology; my partners are. We worship at the altar of ideas and innovation," Doerr said Tuesday during his keynote at the Post Seed venture capital conference in San Francisco.
The caveat: "Ideas are easy. Execution is everything. It takes a team to win."
So what makes for a great entrepreneur, and how do you learn the skills you need to succeed in business? Doerr's answer, in short, is that you have to figure it out yourself. Here are three key components to successful entrepreneurship the VC laid out.
Reality is the best incubator.
"I don't think you learn to be an entrepreneur at an accelerator. I think you are an entrepreneur, or you're not," said Doerr. Ditto for MBAs -- a master's degree in business won't give you the skills or qualities you need. Doerr defines an entrepreneur as someone who can do more than anyone thinks is possible with less than anyone thinks is possible. And the only way to learn about business is to do business.
You need a great team.
Doerr recalled a time when he was running a startup that wasn't making its revenue. The entire team agreed to take salary cuts in exchange for greater equity to get the business up to speed. If you're going to build a business that outlasts struggles with revenue and other challenges, you'll need a team that is willing to make sacrifices in the near term for long-term gains. Your team also needs to have a certain combination of skills to succeed. Doerr says that in Series A fundraising, it's particularly important to present a startup with most if not all of the following attributes:
- Technical excellence
- Outstanding leadership
- Strategic focus on a really large market
- Reasonable approach to financing
- Sense of urgency
Ignore the hype.
Another tip from Doerr: Just as you shouldn't put all your faith in the next hot accelerator, don't try to be a unicorn. Doerr said the wave of startup valuations in excess of $1 billion are driven largely by venture capital firms and hedge funds bidding values to artificially high points. Don't go with an investor just because that investor gives you a high valuation; go with the investor that will stick by your team and guide them through the various growth stages. "Go for clean terms and let the market set the valuation."