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Bob Davis's Advice to Young Entrepreneurs

Answered by: Bob Davis

An excerpt from an August 2012 interview with Forbes.

Where do you get your ideas from and how do you decide which ones to put your energy into?

The ideas we get for investments as venture capitalists come from two primary sources. The first is from the entrepreneurs that identify pain points or opportunities in the market. It’s these folks that see something and say I can change the world. The second source is from good old fashioned research. We work hard at becoming subject matter experts. We dig into the sub sectors of industries and try to understand what makes them tick. We work hard to understand all of the competitors in a market, the trends going forward and the slivers of light that will allow a young company to exploit the weakness of titans.

What is most important to you when you decide which companies to invest in? What’s least important?

The most important criteria for me in making an investment decision is people. It’s the strength of the team behind the idea. I learned long ago that a great team can turn a marginal idea into a home run as they pivot and adjust to market challenges and opportunities and then build huge companies of lasting distinction. Steve Jobs‘ tenure at Apple might be the best example of that ever as a brilliant leader adapted to countless scenarios and re-invented market after market.

So when a powerful visionary with the ability to execute walks in my door I want to back him all day long. I almost don’t care what his or her idea is as I know they will figure that out over time. Surprisingly, the area I care least about when first meeting an entrepreneur is the detail behind the product offering. There will be a time for that but in our early discussions I want to understand the leader and his or her vision.

What three pieces of advice would you give to a young aspiring entrepreneur right now?

The advice I would offer to an inspiring entrepreneur today would be:

  1. Dare to dream – believe in your vision, don’t listen to the naysayers and build something where there was nothing; 
  2. Do your work – once inspired do your research, be sure you understand the market and the competitors, be sure you understand the capital costs to succeed and be sure you have the team necessary to prevail; 
  3. If you let up, you lose – the life of an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart and your perseverance will be tested again and again. The work is long and hard and the sacrifices are significant. In fact, the life of an entrepreneur is one of setbacks, challenges and failures. It’s a life of missed anniversaries and birthdays, it’s a life of falling down and picking yourself back up but ultimately, for those that have the vision, the hard work and a little bit of luck, it’s the ultimate high of looking at a successful company and saying “I built that”.

Read the full interview.