GO VC Founder Sean Brown Proves Putting People Over Profits Pays Off
Since the Internet has become a part of everyday life, disruptors have emerged in nearly every single industry: Uber changed the transportation business, AirBNB changed the lodging business, and when it comes to venture capital, this Orange County native is changing the way businesses and private equity are working together. The man pioneering these changes is 32-year-old Sean Brown, the founder and CEO of Irvine, California based venture capital and business consulting firm GO VC.
From the outside, GO VC may seem like a typical venture capital firm. Startups approach his company, some in the idea stage, and some with proof of concepts looking to scale. These companies reach out to the firm for help with raising capital to bring ideas to life, or scale concepts that are already working. GO VC helps prepare and make sure the idea is well vetted, helps launch the idea to market, and provides resources to assist with the management of the business.
Typical venture capital business models have always been to invest capital, usually across a portfolio of businesses, and then sit back and hope that some of those projects will become winners. But what about the entrepreneurs that just want to focus on their vision? Many entrepreneurs in the early startup phase have no interest or skill set in the various departments of running a business, like administrative, legal, talent acquisition, and marketing. Having to juggle these unknowns while also launching a new product is a leading factor in why startups fail. This is where GO VC is pioneering several new trends in the V.C. industry.
Beyond providing capital, Brown’s firm creates an ecosystem for budding brands which encompasses a full suite of administrative support for entrepreneurs, like bookkeeping, accounting and human resources support, so that entrepreneurs operating startups can focus completely on their passion. GO VC also includes access to ThinkBrain, a branding and design firm, AdLeaks, an educational platform connecting the world’s best digital marketers, and Agency Y, one of the world’s most successful media buying agencies. Not only are these companies great resources for entrepreneurs, but all three of these companies are successful case studies of GO VC’s business model, pioneered and co-founded by Brown and his team.
According to Sean Brown, “The real magic lies in the process, and part of that process is putting people over profits” he says. GO VC only invests in companies that the company is emotionally invested in and that Sean has a personal connection with. The company invests themselves into startups that they feel will positively impact the future, not just make money. What makes Sean Brown’s success story so unique, is that he has taken everything he learned from his experience launching and scaling successful startups, and has now made it his life’s mission to share that experience with other entrepreneurs.
There are many rags-to-riches stories out there. What makes yours unique?
I would not necessarily refer to my story as a rags to riches story, but I am a self made entrepreneur, and I have learned many hard lessons from doing business over the years. I grew up in a very privileged area in Southern California, but the difference was that I did not have equal access to the family resources that many of my wealthy and more privileged friends and acquaintances had growing up. I have always felt very blessed to have lived in an affluent neighborhood in a beautiful part of California with my family, and I am grateful to have experienced wealth right in front of me all the time. Seeing tremendous wealth flaunted in front of me was one of the biggest motivations for me to make it on my own.
As someone who has made it on their own, how important do you think passion and tenacity are to being an entrepreneur?
If you aren’t passionate about what you are doing then what’s the point? That is why I believe businesses that start out focusing on helping solve real peoples’ problems have a better chance of success than businesses that are solely focused on profit alone. Very few people can be passionate enough about a spreadsheet to wake up every day and put the effort in to take something from concept to success. But when it comes to helping people, or disrupting an industry in a positive way, or even changing the world, that can give entrepreneurs the energy and motivation that they need to succeed.
Many entrepreneurs approach launching a startup like a sprint, when in reality, business is a marathon. Without tenacity and the will to succeed, it is unlikely you can stay in the game long enough to actualize any real results. Things will never go the way you imagine them, so it takes persistence and determination to be able to stay passionate, overcome obstacles, stay motivated, pivot, and continue towards the goal. Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the notion that it can take years to become an overnight success. It is having the perseverance to continue during those years that differentiates those who reach success, and those who do not.
Do you have to be an extrovert to make it in business? How do you go from an introvert to an extrovert—and is this important in terms of success?
I do not think you have to be an extrovert to make it. In fact, many of the most successful people I know are very introverted. Being an extrovert is one of those characteristics that probably helps make it easier to succeed, but everybody has different skill sets, and that is what makes business, and the world, so unique. I consider myself very fortunate to be naturally extroverted, and I love connecting, socializing, and interacting directly with people. Since it is one of my strengths, I do my best to leverage it. Being successful is all about taking what you are good at and making the most from it.
Knowing self-reliance is imperative for success, how do you balance selfish and unselfish needs and where do you draw the line?
My wife and children mean more to me than anything in the world. Everything I do at this point in my life is for my family. Even though my children are very young, self reliance is something that I work to instill in them at all times. I lead by example, and children follow by example, so I operate my business and live my life in a way where I hope to inspire my children to be self sufficient, responsible, tenacious, honest, kind, generous, and charitable. Every business needs to generate revenue to justify its existence, but there are so many opportunities in the world today that no entrepreneur should ever feel the need to compromise their morals and values just to generate income. Investing and partnering in businesses that I feel make a positive contribution to society is extremely important to me.
Do you believe in placing any limitations of the demands of your professional aspirations?
Yes, creating a great legacy and leaving the world a better place than I found it is a priority to me. When you have children and you love your family, you look at the world differently. You approach business differently. I won’t sacrifice the world my children and my children’s children will have to live in just to make some money now. The most important thing to me is coming from a place of value, and genuinely working hard to improve the world we live in. Helping entrepreneurs and innovators who are like minded and share those same principles keeps me passionate about growing GO VC.