So Guy Kawasaki, who is "by no means “proven” as a venture capitalist" (by his own admission) has put together a quiz about what it takes to be a VC.
Guy thinks that , "When you’re young, you should work eighty hours a week to create a product or service that changes the world. You should not sit in board meetings listening to an entrepreneur explaining why she missed her numbers while you read email on a Blackberry and intermittently spew forth gems like, “You should partner with MySpace; I can also introduce you to a few of the losers in our portfolio.”
Furthermore, entrepreneurs should view any young person who opted for venture capital over “real world” experience with contempt."
Well, Guy, I started out on the financing side, first at an insitutional LP where I listened to a lot of VCs and then on the VC side where I listened to a lot of entreprenuers and the VCs I got to work with. It took me a while at each place before I started contributing my own two cents, and I tried to do it where I felt I had some relevent insight. Listening, in my opinion, is a skill in short demand and I feel like I learned a lot. Now I'm taking what I learned to the "real world" on the operational side, but I don't think that any of the entrepreneurs I met looked at me with contempt before I joined Oddcast. I'm glad they didn't.
Here's my advice to young people trying to get into the field. Don't let anyone tell you how to get to Mecca. There are many ways, and one thing I remembered at my time at GM was that the VCs I met came from lots of different backgrounds. Some were former entreprenuers. Others were technologists. A few came from journalism and media... others... sales.
And, to debunk Guy's quiz, I'll give the example of Mike Moritz. Moritz is a partner at Sequoia. You may know the startups he's funded: Google, Yahoo!, PayPal, eGroups, Agile... Most people consider him to be somewhat good at his job.
If Mike were to take Guy's quiz, here's what he would score:
Part I: Work Background
What is your background?
- Engineering (add 5 points)
- Sales (add 5 points)
- Management consulting (subtract 5 points)
- Investment banking (subtract 5 points)
- Accounting (subtract 5 points)
- MBA (subtract 5 points)
Mike would get -5 points here, because he joined Sequoia after reporting for Time Magazine and starting a newsletter and conference business. In other words, he was a media guy. Then, he made the mistake of getting an MBA.
"The ideal venture capitalist has an engineering or a sales background." Sorry, Mike.
Part II: First-Hand Experiences
You may have been in the right places, but you also need the right experiences in those places. Specifically, have you gone through these?
- Been kicked in the groin by a major, long-lasting economic downturn, so that you know how powerless you are. (add 1 point)
Hmm... since Mike has been part of a successful firm for 20 years, and he invested in Google during the bubble, I'd say this is a no. His track record seems to have left his groin intact. No points.
- Worked at a successful startup, so that you can speak first-hand about the ecstasy of entrepreneurship. (add 1 point)
Nope. No points.
- Worked at a failed startup, so that you understand three things: first, how hard it is to achieve success; second, that the world doesn’t owe you a thing; and third, what it’s like to be fired or laid off. (add 3 points)
No failures, no points.
- Worked at a public company, so that you know what the end goal looks like, warts and all. (add 1 point)
Reporter for Time. Time was public. Um.... 1 point I guess.
- Held a CEO position, so that you have this fantasy experience out of your system and will not try to run the startup from a board position. (add 2 points)
Was he the CEO of the conference company he co-founded? Maybe... 2 points.
- Been an angel investor with your own money, so that you understand the fiduciary responsibility of investing other people’s money. (add 2 points)
I don't think he can angel invest while working at a VC, so I'd say no. No points.
Part III: Necessary Knowledge
Finally, can you answer these questions for entrepreneurs? Because this is the kind of advice that entrepreneurs need. (Don’t worry: many current venture capitalists would fail this part.)
- How do I introduce a product with no budget? (add 2 points)
I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt on most of these, b/c he seems pretty smart... never met him (would like to, of course), but I'll assume. 2 points
- How do I determine whether there’s really a market demand for my product? (add 1 point)
1 point. (Seems like this should get more weight, but ok..whatever...)
- What do I do if customers hate our first product? (add 1 point)
1 point... [shrugs]
- How do I get Walt Mossberg to return my call? (add 2 points)
This is one of those, "The way to be a successful VC is to be a successful VC before" things... I imagine Walt would answer Mike's call. 2 pts.
- How do I get to the folks who run Demo? (add 1 point)
See above. 1 point.
- How do I get a plug in TechCrunch? (add 1 point)
I have an issue with this one. I don't think TechCrunch has made or broken any companies (the products may have broken themselves... Arrington just calls 'em as he sees 'em). Plus, I don't really think a VC making a call to Arrington would really influence him... maybe a VC who blogs or anyone who blogs, but otherwise I really think its just create something worthwhile and submit. 0 points.
- How do I get the folks at Fox Interactive to return my call? (add 1 point)
Hmm... if you're investing in a B2B company, I'm not sure how this is relevent.... but, I imagine they'd return Mike's call. A point, I guess.
- How do I dominate a segment when there are five other companies doing essentially the same thing? (add 2 points)
2 Points... see Google.
- How much time, energy, and money should I spend on patent protection? (add 1 point)
1 Point... a patent lawyer would know this, too.
- We bet on the wrong architecture for our product; what do I do now? (add 2 points)
Since MM isn't a technical guy, but he probably has connections to lots of great CTO's, I'm going to give him 1 point here.
- What kind of people should I hire: young, old, unproven, proven, cheap, expensive, local, remote? (add 1 point)
As if there was a right answer to this... whatever... 1 point.
- How do I get them to leave their current jobs without throwing a lot of money at them? (add 2 points)
Benefit of the doubt... 2 points.
- How do I tell my best friend that he can’t be chief technical officer just because he was a cofounder? (add 2 points)
- How do I get to the buyer at BestBuy to return my call? (add 1 point)
1 point... b/c anyone with a clue will say, "Make a product people demand at the store."
- How do I handle a customer who wants to send back his purchase for a full refund? (add 1 point)
- How do I fire people? (add 2 points)
- How do I lay people off? (add 2 points)
So, on experience, I gave him most of the points, assuming that anyone with a 20 year career in VC should know this stuff.
So, that makes his total...21.
According to the results chart:
24 points or less: Work until you can score higher and keep flying on Southwest Airlines.