“Can you help me find a job in VC?”

 About 18 months ago, I was cold called by a young, ambitious MBA student who wanted some advice and guidance on something very very difficult to do: breaking into the venture capital business. Relative to huge demand, there are very few entry level VC positions available in the Washington, DC region.

Since his initial cold call, I have met him a few times at various events around town. I had not heard from him in several months until today when, in response to an email announcement my company sent out, he responded that he was still seeking my help in landing a VC job.

I emailed him my response:

Here’s how I may help, with some (free) advice:

YOU have to HELP you. The buck stops with you!

You have to create true value for your customers and constituents (boss, coworkers, investors, friends, etc).

You must give 110% every single hour of every single day, and MAKE SURE all of this is recognized.

Network like a machine. You should be out every night going to 2-3 events per, and genuinely HELPING others – Thats how you build YOUR brand!

Work 80 hours per week. There’s no substitute for hard work.

In this market, the ideal job does not come to you.
YOU have to attack and make it happen.
And the tools you need are contacts, credibility and expertise, all of which you will develop by following the advice above.

Pursue your dream and never give up!! It may take a month, year, or 10 years, but the persistent person ALWAYS wins…eventually!!

All the best,
Tien

That’s advice I would give to my kids, the students I work with at Georgetown or Maryland, and anyone looking to land any kind of job, especially a high-demand job.

Bottom line: you have to help yourself, and there are no shortcuts. Buckle up because the road will be long and bumpy,

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Thanks!

Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Spring Forum, March 7, Tysons Corner, VA

LORE SYSTEMS is pleased to host one of the most exciting angel and entrepreneurship networking forums in the DC Region on March 7, 2011 at the Tower Club in Tysons Corner, VA.

Please come out!  Here’s the Eventbrite link:  http://connectpreneur1.eventbrite.com

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Spring Forum is a 1/2 day “NETWORKING MASHUP” of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.

Come see what happens when you put a group of “A List” business leaders and entrepreneurs in one room for a few hours!

This UNIQUE EVENT is like NONE OTHER in our region, due to the high quality of our attendees and participants, as well as our programming and unprecedented networking.

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum is an exclusive “mashup” of 170+ of the DC Region’s top entrepreneurs, business leaders, CXOs, angels and VCs.
Most of the attendees are “INVITATION ONLY,” and we are limiting service provider participation in order to maximize the experience for our Attendees and Sponsors.
Program Highlights:
  • “Hypergrowth – Zero to $500 million in 8 years” discussion
  • “Entrepreneurs with a Higher Purpose” panel
  • 8 Emerging companies seeking funding will briefly tell their stories
  • “Disruption, Disintermediation, and Destruction” luncheon discussion
  • Networking sessions before, during, and after the event
The venue is the Tower Club in Tyson’s Corner, Northern Virginia’s premier private business club.  A plated brealkfast and plated lunch are included.
AGENDA7:00–8:00 am – ARRIVAL / BREAKFAST / NETWORKING

8:00 – 8:05 am – WELCOME

8:05 – 8:45 am –  “HYPERGROWTH – ZERO TO $500 MILLION IN 8 YEARS!” – a conversation with Tony Jimenez, Founder and CEO of MicroTech
8:45 – 9:30 am  –  “ENTREPRENEURSHIP WITH A HIGHER PURPOSE”
Jim Cheng, Secretary of Commerce, Commonwealth of VA; Founder and CEO, Computer Hi-Tech Mgt, “Entrepreneur Turned Public Servant”
Dr. John Holaday, CEO, QRx Pharma, an ex-Army officer, Professor, and serial entrepreneur who has founded and taken 3 companies public, “Entrepreneur Seeking a Cure for Cancer”
Seth Goldman, Founder and TeaEO, Honest Tea, beverage industry innovator, “Entrepreneur  leading the Green Movement”
9:30 – 9:45 am – NETWORKING BREAK
9:45 – 11:30 am – COMPANY PRESENTATIONS
Fresh Tax
Pixspan
11:30 – 11:45 am – NETWORKING BREAK
11:45 – 1:15 pm – LUNCHEON DISCUSSION – “DISRUPTION, DISINTERMEDIATION, AND DESTRUCTION”
Duke Chung, Founder of Parature, CRM industry pioneer
Mark Walsh, Founder and CEO, GeniusRocket;  Chairman, DIngman Center for Entrepreneurship;  Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Union College;  Founder and CEO, VerticalNet
John Backus, Managing Partner of New Atlantic Ventures, Founder of Draper Atlantic Venture Fund, former CEO, InteliData
1:15 pm – MORE NETWORKING AND DEALMAKING
CONFIRMED PARTICIPANTS (partial list):
Over 110 Entrepreneurs and CXOs, plus another 40+ angels and VCs including Core Capital, Novak Biddle, New Atlantic Ventures, CIT, Capital Source, NEA, Maryland Venture Fund, MAVA, MTECH Ventures, Maryland DBED, Ruxton Ventures, Opus8, VentureCross Partners, McLean Capital, National Capital, Starise Ventures, Dingman Center Angels, Blu Venture Partners, Blue Heron, Washingon DC Archangels, Fortify.vc, Endeavor DC, Private Capital Network, APPTEL, Stanford Venture Advisors, MD Center for Entrepreneurship, SunWalker Group, Skada Capital, Keiretsu Forum, CADRE.
EVENT SPONSORS:  


If You Could Give Your Kids ONLY 3 Pieces of Advice…


IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR KIDS ONLY 3 PIECES OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

This question was posed as an “Icebreaker” to our Forum meeting a few weeks ago.

Think about it.  Of all the DOZENS of great ideas you’d like to give your children, what would be the TOP THREE?

Here are mine:

1.  THINK for yourself – To live a fulfilling life, you have to think independently.  This is how you can create a world of limitless possibility.  Question everything!  It’s OK to listen to “conventional wisdom” and advice that people give you, but YOU have to ultimately form your own opinions.  This is what the best LEADERS do, whether they are leading a company, a family, or their own lives.

2.  Always maintain your INTEGRITY – In the end, you have only 2 things:  your memories and your name.  And your name and reputation live on.  By keeping your promises and doing the RIGHT THING, you will sleep soundly at night and have peace of mind.

3.  Find your PASSION and give 100% – Life is very short.  You don’t have much time, so make the most of it by doing what you LOVE and giving your ALL.  It’s not easy to find your passion. Maybe the search will be painful and long, but you will find it at some point.  And the feeling of satisfaction knowing you have given 100% brings tremendous contentment.

My Forum Brothers all had awesome Advice as well:

Find Yourself.  Be True to Yourself.

GIve and Get Love.

Be Present – Take in the Moment.

Work Hard

Enjoy Life

Be Respectful

Listen Carefully to Advice Along the Way

Modulate Your Emotional Highs and Lows

Embrace Difficulties and Hardship – They are a Catalyst for Growth

Love Your God and Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

Find a Life Partner Who Shares Your Values and Life Experience

In Your Profession: Be Good at It, Enjoy It, and Make Sure It Pays Well

What Top 3 pieces of advice would YOU give to YOUR kids?

Thanks for reading, and please subscribe!

Featured image courtesy of aldrin_muya licensed via creative commons.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

“You don’t know what you don’t know.”  That’s one of my favorite sayings, and a true maxim in life and in business.  Having a “know it all” mentality can lead to disastrous decision making.  I’ve learned this the hard way, and if I had a dime for every time I have said “you don’t know what you don’t know” to one of my teammates or colleagues, I’d be very rich!

The beautiful hand painted wooden Russian Nesting Dolls from the city of Penza (above and below) illustrate this point very well.  The dolls descend in size and fit inside one another.  You open the largest one and keep going until you finally come to the impossibly tiny little doll at the end.

Ever had a problem you think you solved until another related issue popped up? Something completely unexpected.  Then you thought you solved it again but then another surprise came up?  And so on and so on until you finally got the correct answer?  Finding the right solution is just like opening up a set of these nesting dolls one by one.

Problems can be solved faster by knowing the simple fact that “you don’t know what you don’t know.”  So here are some simple ideas to keep in mind.

1.  Don’t Assume Anything – You’ve heard bosses and mentors say, “If you A-S-S-U-M-E, you make an A-S-S out of U and ME,” right?  I have to agree that, while extremely difficult NOT to do, assuming things can be very costly, especially when communicating with others.  Of course, you have to assume or guess at some things, but try and get as many facts, background info, etc. ahead of time.

2.  Be Prepared – For anything.  Expect surprises, and just take the issue as it comes and think things through carefully.

3.  Have a “Beginner’s Mind,” or “Shosin” as the Zen Buddhists like to call it.  By being open and devoid of preconceptions, you bring a level of humility and desire for learning to the challenge at hand.

4.  Get Help – Ask experts or experienced people and advisers who can help you.  And do your homework independently, as well.

5.  Test and Iterate – If you have the luxury of time, take baby steps and test your ideas. Whether it’s a new product or a new target audience, or whatever, put it out there on a test basis first, then evaluate feedback and results….and then adjust accordingly.

We at Lore Systems have put in place these practices and have benefitted immeasurably in making better decisions in everything we do.

Good luck, and thank you very much for reading.  Please feel free to comment and sign up for my Blog!

Mentoring Entrepreneurs the FounderCorps Way

What is Mentorship?

My colleagues at FounderCorps have worked diligently to define what Mentorship is, and how we want to work with entrepreneur mentees.  This post summarizes and paraphrases some of the highlights from Jonathan Aberman’s post on the FounderCorps Mentorship Best Practice page.

The mentor/mentee relationship is a unique and personal relationship, which transcends a mere advisor or board relationship. It is one of the most rewarding things people can be involved in outside of their family relationships.  Mentorship doesn’t happen by accident. Both the mentor and the mentee have their parts to play in a successful mentor/mentee relationship.

A “mentor” is a person with professional and life experience that can be shared to help others learn and develop.  The mentor is willing to share these experiences in a manner that the mentee can react to and understand.  While there may be commercial aspects to a mentor’s engagement, at its best the advice and help that is offered is provided freely and without expectation of immediate reward.

A mentee is willing to be engaged and respectful of the mentor’s time and should understand that the best mentors are not motivated by money but by personal satisfaction.

Mentorship is not merely advice. It is a bilateral commitment between two people, based upon mutual trust and a commitment.  The commitment of the mentor is to provide advice and help to the mentee with the mentee’s best interests in mind.  The commitment of the mentee is to be ready to listen to the advice and take the help and act upon it.  The currency of the mentor/mentee relationship is personal satisfaction and shared accomplishment.

Is Mentorship the Same Thing as Providing Advice?

A mentor/mentee relationship often is centered upon the giving of advice; however, a mentor/mentee relationship is more than merely providing advice; it is a bi-lateral relationship where the mentor and the mentee both work with and benefit from the other. There is a very important aspect of shared mission that exists at the core of a mentor/mentee relationship.   A mentor doesn’t merely provide war stories or open ended advice. Instead, a mentor provides advice in context with the best interests of the mentee in mind.

Mentorship Must be Free of Conflict

Conflict in itself is neutral – it is merely a lack of congruence between the best interests of the person giving advice, the person getting the advice, and the organization (if any) through which the advice is given.  The conflict does not mean that the various parts of the relationship are destined to fail, or that the conflict cannot be resolved in a way that serves the best interests of all.  In an ideal situation, any conflict should be identified and discussed.  We believe that in any advisor/advisee relationship conflicts should be identified and acknowledged.  This does not defeat the possibility of a successful mentorship, and results in an honest relationship where parties will know which best interests will ultimately control.

The mentor/mentee relationship should usually be free of conflict.  The best interests of the mentee should be tantamount.  Following from this is an expectation that the mentor is not exposed to liability or financial obligation.  The best mentor/mentee relationship is based upon advice and support freely given and freely ignored. 

What Supports a Successful Mentor/Mentee Relationship?

The currency of a successful mentor/mentee relationship is personal satisfaction. It is not a commercial relationship, and relies upon participants deriving psychic benefits.

How Does the Mentor/Mentee Relationship Begin?

Mentorship can arise out of formal relationships; however they cannot be created formally. Directors, Advisory Board members, and supervisors may offer advice, but they are not mentors.  The mentor/mentee relationship arises informally through positive association over a period of time.  Its success requires a personal relationship, based upon trust. This allows it to be more useful for the mentee, but also more difficult to obtain.  As is the case of any personal relationship, consistency and integrity over an extended period are usually required to establish the deep connection of a mentor/mentee relationship.

Does That Mean Mentor/Mentee Relationships Should Always Be Informal?

The mentor/mentee relationship has to work for both parties.  This often means that the best relationships are those that have clarity of expectations, for example, time commitment per month or time period.  Both parties should acknowledge that most mentor/mentee relationships have an end point, where they do not work for one or the other.  Therefore, the best mentor/mentee relationships often arise out of a formal interaction, for example, assisting in a business plan competition.  Or, around a specific time period.  In the absence of a formal initial structure, mentors/mentees should include in their interactions a regular check-in discussion, to make sure that both are getting the positive benefits they need for it to be a rewarding relationship.  Expectations and motivations need to be understood and acknowledged at all times.

What is the Best Way to Find a Mentor?

Mentorship can’t occur until the mentee is ready for a mentor’s assistance.  Mentors are best found through a variety of ways including personal networking, positive interactions in a formal advisory setting, and via an introduction from a trusted referral source.  Formal vetting programs, like an advisory program operated by a University or community group are great ways to find mentors.  Professional service providers are also a potential good source of mentors, because of their deep relationships with many experienced people who could be suitable mentors.

What Are the Most Important Attributes of a Successful Mentor/Mentee Relationship?

The most successful mentor/mentee relationships have many of these characteristics.

  • Understanding of each other’s “winning strategy.”  In order for mentors and mentees to communicate well they must appreciate how the other deals with challenges, and speak to each other in a way that the other can hear. Mentors/mentees don’t have to have the same winning strategy, but when they don’t match up there is a need for a higher level of sensitivity and care.
  • Both mentor and mentee have to be coachable. Both parties must be self-aware and able to take criticism and modify their behavior. Without coachability you don’t have a real exchange of information and a shared experience – you have one-directional communication.
  • Both are respectful of time commitments.  It’s not always convenient from a work-life balance perspective to be a mentor or mentee. It’s essential that each party be flexible whenever possible, and tries to limit emergencies to real emergencies.
  • Both must act on information received. Each party must listen to the other and demonstrate through conduct some sort of acknowledgment. A good mentor does not need to have her advice followed, but if a mentee continually ignores advice and thoughts without discussing why, he runs the risk of creating for the mentor the sense that she is wasting her time. For the mentor, not listening to the mentee and modifying advice or how it’s delivered, creates for the mentee a sense that the mentor isn’t really interested in a bilateral relationship.
  • There must be honesty and transparency. The best mentor/mentee relationships are valuable because there is a real exchange of viewpoints and feedback. This can’t happen if critical facts are omitted, or words are measured to protect feelings.
  • Mentors must be willing to provide substantial benefits.  Mentees look for mentors to provide support, empathy and contacts.  They should also look to their mentors to provide an external monitoring process of the mentee’s progression against the shared goals identified by the mentor/mentee.
  • Mentees must not embarrass or abuse their mentor’s trust.  Mentees should ensure that any introduction or other extension of assistance by the mentor is treated with respect and that there is follow through.  There needs to be an appreciation that when a mentor acts to assist a mentee by making introductions or otherwise using his own influence, there is a reputational risk to the mentor if the mentee does not perform.
  • There must be discretion. Along with honesty, keeping confidences is essential, since personal information and feelings are shared. The more comfortable the participants are in sharing sensitive information, the more valuable and lasting the mentor/mentee relationship.
  • Each party must be open to having the relationship change over time. As in any other personal relationship, the mentor/mentee relationship evolves. Many relationships are situational, or are relevant for a limited time period. Also, at times one party “outgrows” the other. “Breaking up” with a mentor/mentee can be emotionally difficult. It’s essential to be professional when the relationship is no longer satisfying to one party or the other.
  • A mentor/mentee relationship is not a family relationship.  A mistake that many mentor/mentees make is to analogize their relationship to a family relationship, like a big sister or uncle. But mentors/mentees are not your relatives. They are people who are in a mutually beneficial relationship, based upon positive psychic rewards. You should never take a mentor/mentee for granted.
Please learn more about FounderCorps and sign up to help us, if you’re interested.
Thanks for reading and please comment below, and sign up to receive my blog posts!
Featured image courtesy of plakboek licensed via creative commons.

FounderCorps – Entrepreneurs helping Entrepreneurs Win!

A few months ago, I joined a group of two dozen or so like-minded tech entrepreneurs and company Founders at the home of Jonathan Aberman of Amplifier Venture Partners to create a new and UNIQUE not-for-profit organization called FounderCorps.

Managed by experienced technology entrepreneurs for the benefit of entrepreneurs, FounderCorps has already assisted a number of community groups and Universities in business formation and mentorship activities, including George Mason University, George Washington University, University of Maryland, Startup XLR8R and others.

There are so many great organizations and resources in our market, so why start FounderCorps?  Do we really need another organization in town?  The answer is YES! We all felt that there exists a tremendous need to promote greater coordination between experienced entrepreneurs and new business creation. There is so much activity in our region, and we wanted to create a group dedicated to providing the experienced entrepreneurs’ perspective to connect the dots between entrepreneurs and technology company creation. The underlying feeling of all of our members is that there is a uniquely successful version of entrepreneurship here in the DC region, and we want to promote and provide resources to this community for sustained growth.

Right now, our membership comprises over 57 experienced technology entrepreneurs who have started, managed or exited successful technology businesses. FounderCorps promotes technology entrepreneurial development by actively partnering with existing organizations to create a supportive infrastructure for technology entrepreneurship. Our core mission is to promote a broader and deeper technology entrepreneurship community in the Greater Washington Region. FounderCorps creates and delivers mentorship and support programs to emerging entrepreneurs who are creating businesses.

Today, FounderCorps announced the establishment of the FounderCorps Fellows Program. The new grant program supports our core mission of promoting technology entrepreneurship in the Greater Washington Region and selects individual entrepreneurs nominated by our members for long-term mentorship and guidance. The initial activity of the FounderCorps Fellows Program will be to provide prizes and assistance to winners of business plan and creation competitions organized by FounderCorps’ partner organizations.  Click here for the link to the press release.

Check us out, and if you are interested in learning more, please visit our website.

Thanks very much for reading.  I’d love your feedback and thoughts, so please Comment below…and please sign up for my Blog too!  (See the Signup box on the sidebar of my Home Page)