Thursday, April 16, 2015

Three Quick Things We Can Teach Entrepreneurs

By Allen H. Kupetz

The views expressed may not reflect the opinions of venVelo’s board or its investors.

I wear two hats. One is a professor who teaches entrepreneurship courses. The other is COO of a multi-million dollar early-stage investment fund. When investors find out I also teach, I’m often asked, “Do you really think you can teach entrepreneurship?”

“No,” has been my historical reply. “You are either born with it or you are not.”

A better answer would be, “No, I can’t teach someone to be an entrepreneur. But I can teach many things to someone who is an entrepreneur.”

Three Quick Things

1. Never confuse knowledge and wisdom.

I’ve written often about the difference between knowledge and wisdom: knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing never put it in a fruit salad. Institutional investors are likely betting, among other things, that you have more knowledge than they do. But the hundreds of years of wisdom listening to your pitch and writing you a check can still teach you a lot.
Listen. Execute. Repeat.

2. Talk the talk.

Entrepreneurs need to truly understand the language of venture capital. Debt vs. Equity. VC vs. PE. Options vs. Warrants vs. Shares. Common vs. Preferred. Prefs. Don’t rely solely on your attorney or accountant. Read a couple of books. Follow the blogs of Mark Suster ( and Fred Wilson (
Read. Learn. Repeat.

3. The world is flat, but the entrepreneurial community is even flatter.

Most funds you pitch are going to turn you down – that is simply the math behind the game. But a no now doesn’t always mean no never. Learn something from the questions and feedback you get at every pitch. Never ever dis your local investment community because word gets around. 
Learn. Grow. Repeat.

A Closing Thought

“Frying-Pan Jack and I were in that camp, that's where he said to me, he'd been tramping since 1927, 'I told myself in '27, if I cannot dictate the conditions of my labor, I will henceforth cease to work.' You don't have to go to college to figure these things out, no sir. He said, 'I learned when I was young that the only true life I had was the life of my brain, (so) what sense does it make to hand that brain to someone for eight hours a day, for their particular use, on the presumption that at the end of the day they will give it back in an unmutilated condition? Fat chance!” 
- Utah Phillips