In one of the more interesting recent startup panels, TiE (The Indian Entrepreneurs) NYC hosted a panel discussion on Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at the NYC offices of King & Spalding at 1185 Avenue of the Americas. The discussion, titled "Jumpstart Your Idea - Taking the Plunge and Starting Your Dream Venture", featured Brooklyn Bridge Ventures' Charlie O'Donnell, Mojiva's Miles Spencer and Hotlist's Gianni Martire discussing common scenarios all entrepreneurs face when embarking on their first venture.
The three panelists fielded moderated and audience questions and responded with numerous nuggets for the audience of entrepreneurs to walk away with. A common theme of the evening was finding suitable cofounders with the same core values as the entrepreneur. Spencer likened it to investing in "three guys in an inflatable raft, storming the beach", but also cautioned against the "IHOP moment", once all parties are "all-in" to immediately divide the equity up equally. In his opinion, some of those equal partners wouldn't be able to carry their weight.
O'Donnell also stressed the importance of common values but emphasized having founders with different experiences and opinions. O'Donnell also remarked upon the current benefits of the NYC ecosystem, namely the talent pool, collaborative environment and the current existence of signficant investment money. O'Donnell also related the tale of one entrepreneur, who took daily cold showers to condition himself to the future hardships of each day.
A good test of an entrepreneur, O'Donnell added, was to ask them "if Mark Zuckerberg suddenly left Facebook, would you have a role for him?" to gauge the entrepreneur's ability to let go of control. Another way of O'Donnell's to assess the entrepreneur's core expertise is to ask what would be the last role he/she would delegate..
Martire emphasized hiring slow and firing quickly, something the other panelists echoed. He also related the changes in the NYC ecosystem by sharing his dad's disappointment when he quit his investment firm job to found a startup which he ultimately exited profitably, commenting how that might not be the case today.
The title quote is a reference to an audience question about protecting intellectual capital. The panel was in agreement that execution and speed to market were much more important than any patent.
In all, this was a well-organized and well-attended event that did not disappoint. The panelists meshed well together and really brought the entrepreneur experience to life. Kudos to TiE for a great job!