Entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and private equity gurus shared important lessons learned with students from across the nation at the 10th Annual University Private Equity Summit in Utah.
by David Hyde
Build things; don’t just talk about ideas. Create value, because you don’t deserve a hand out. Learn how to code. Get an MBA. Don’t get an MBA. Your time is now, go out there and get it. It isn’t about the destination; it’s the journey.
These are just a few of the theories top entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and private equity gurus told over 200 students from across the nation at the 10th Annual University Private Equity Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah. The two-day conference hosted panels including private equity, venture capital, impact investing, digital technology and entrepreneurship. The University Venture Fund (UVF), a student-run investment firm, hosted the conference.
The most outspoken and colorful was the first keynote speaker, Dave McClure from 500 Startups. He told students to forget the business plan, and start building something, because the best way to learn is through “practicing business.” McClure said that “the best opportunities are in the not so sexy businesses… you’ll see them in the inefficiencies of boring everyday businesses.”
McClure likened his strategy of investing to that of the movie Moneyball: “Look for a lot of singles, you don’t always need home runs.” But he urged attendees to realize that the climate for creation has never been more prevalent, citing the ease of reaching millions of people through technology such as, Facebook, Google, PayPal, and YouTube. His final plea, “Learn how to code.”
Another high-energy session was the entrepreneurship panel. Ryan Smith of Qualtrics, which just closed a $70 million equity-financing round from Accel Partners and Sequoia, talked about the growing pains for entrepreneurs. “We started [Qualtrics] in my basement. Friends would come and see what we were doing and thought we were crazy.” Smith emphasized how critical it is for entrepreneurs to surround themselves with talent, by not being afraid to hire someone better than himself or herself. He further explained his team approach by being willing to delegate and trusting that others will preform, but part of delegation is following up.
Tom Stockham, a Stanford MBA graduate, promised students if they got out of their comfort zone, in thinking and doing, “that is where the magic happens.” Stockham, current CEO of eXpercity, knows a little about getting out of his comfort zone, having served as President of Ticketmaster and MyFamily.com, which later became Ancestry.com and went public. He explained that the area, “where you are the most uncomfortable, is where you should learn the most.”
The final keynote speaker was former CEO of Skullcandy, Jeremy Andrus. He shared the story of journey as a Harvard MBA graduate, living in his parent’s basement, to taking a company public. He built on a similar theme of learning by doing. “A startup is an MBA,” Andrus said. “It is an incredible experience.” His advice to getting to the top was simple: get a mentor and build a talented team, but he added “be respectful and treat everyone with kindness.” He promised attendees that the journey is the best part, because “the top is kind of lonely. It’s not nearly as cool as it looks.”
For more information about the UVF, visit www.uventurefund.com or email David Hyde at email@example.com.
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