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Successful Serial Entrepreneur David S. Rose: The Business Model All Startups Need to Be Using

Successful Serial Entrepreneur David S. Rose: The Business Model All Startups Need to Be Using

David S. Rose

Image credit: David S. Rose

Serial entrepreneur, angel investor and New York Times-bestselling author David S. Rose is a strong fixture in the startup community.  

He is the founder and CEO of Gust, a platform that links up founders with interested investors in more than 80 countries. To date, more than $1.8 billion has been invested through the connections made by the company.

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On the VC side, Rose is the founder and chairman emeritus of New York Angels, an angel investment group founded in 2004 that has invested more than $50 million into over 80 businesses. With Rose Tech Ventures, an early-stage investment fund that he launched 16 years ago, he and his team helped fund more than 110 Internet companies – many of which were acquired by major players like Amazon, Facebook and Google.

In his upcoming book, The Startup Checklist: 25 Steps to Found and Scale a High-Growth Business, on shelves in May, Rose walks aspiring entrepreneurs through each phase of launching a company, with advice about legal issues, hiring, day to day management, acquisitions and more. We caught up with Rose to talk about the value of building a road map, starting up as nimbly as possible and keeping an open mind.

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Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you were first starting out?

A: More planning, testing, listening and iterating. I started out in the days before “lean,” and can fully appreciate the difference between the old ways and the new. When I was starting out -- indeed, not just the first time, but for several of my early ventures -- my tendency was to do two things wrong. First, I didn’t spend time to think and plan up front. And second, I dove right in to full development, building an entire product before shipping.

Today, I would do exactly the opposite. I would start by thinking through my product, my business and my business model; I would use the Business Model Canvas to get all the important pieces on the board, after which I would create a Lean Business Plan to make sure I had a roadmap and path to get things done. Then I would develop a Minimum Viable Product and get it into the market as fast as I could, and iterate based on actual usage and feedback.

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Q: What do you think would have happened had you known this back then?
A:
I would likely have saved [cough] many [cough] millions of dollars, because my successes would have come sooner and more cost effectively, and my failures would have happened faster and cheaper.

Q: How do you think young entrepreneurs might benefit from this lesson? 
A:
Having invested in over 100 startups, the advantages of "build, measure, learn" are obvious, and while there are certainly entrepreneurs who are able to succeed through brute force -- the application of significant energy, time, money, people, whatever -- in my experience, the best founders who deliver the biggest returns are the ones who have started up with the leanest, tightest and most nimble of companies.

Related: Stripe Co-Founder on How He Could Have Scaled Faster

Q: What are you glad you didn’t know then that you know now?
A:
Just how tough starting a business really is!

Q: What is your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A:
Try as hard as you possibly can to simultaneously keep an open mind to feedback from knowledgeable people, while having the courage of your own convictions. It’s a nearly impossible task, but Thomas Jefferson’s line from the Declaration of Independence is what you need, “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.”