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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”