This is the first of four posts offering practical advice to early-stage founders from an entrepreneur turned venture capitalist. Jonathan Shriftman is a partner at Expanding Capital, a growth stage VC fund that invested in companies like Coinbase, Cameo, Classpass, Postscript and Astra Rockets. Previously Jonathan founded Humin, an AI-powered address book that was acquired by Tinder, and Solé Bicycles, the first direct-to-consumer online bicycle retailer.
We sat down with Jonathan and asked him for his best advice for young entrepreneurs at the earliest stage of forming a startup.
Pursue your passion
One piece of advice that I have for startup founders early in their journey is to build something that you are an expert in. It should be something that you’re going to be committed to for the next seven to 10 years of your life. Ask yourself these two questions:
- Is this business going to be something that you’re excited to wake up to every single day?
- Is it a big enough problem to solve?
If the answer is “yes” to both of those questions, then get going. Run, don’t walk. If it’s worth solving, it’s worth solving right now. When you’re building your business and you’re committed to it, remember that patience is a virtue, but persistence to the point of success is a blessing.
Look for mentors not board members
At the pre-seed and seed stage level of your company, you don’t need to be thinking about giving away board seats to investors. Most companies at pre-seed don’t have a board.
There are things that you should do, like surrounding yourself with positive mentors. This might be a professor, an old colleague, or a boss. It might be someone that started a business similar to yours, or in a similar industry. Oftentimes, with mentors, if they believe in what you’re building and they believe that it’s meaningful and worth spending their time on, you might decide to give them advisor equity. Advisor equity is a small percentage of stock in your company, usually through stock options.
If you have enough mentors, you might create a board of advisors. When you surround yourself with the right group of advisors, it can help launch your business “above the line of super credibility,” as defined by one of my mentors, Peter Diamandis.
For more tips from venture capitalists and access to the resources you need to see your startup through its next challenge, sign up today to Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub.