Stop focusing on what it is you’re trying to do and start focusing on the why
George Deeb is the founder and managing partner of Red Rocket Ventures. Red Rocket helps B2C and B2B companies with their strategies for growth, execution and financing. Since starting Red Rocket Ventures, George has helped over 750 startups. With experience in investment banking, starting the #1 travel adventure website (iExplore) and acting as CEO of a technology business, George has a unique skillset to help entrepreneurs.
It’s more about a proof of concept around your product than it is about your product itself
Through his company, George has experience dealing with so many entrepreneurs. We discussed his journey and experiences growing his business. As well as:
- Business mistakes
- Choosing investment options
- Pitching your business
- Importance of sales and marketing
- Pitching your business
- Strength and weaknesses in business
- Importance of networking
If you want to learn more about George or reach out to him, check out the links below:
John: On today’s show our guest is George Deep. George is a managing partner at Chicago based Red Rocket Ventures. Red Rocket Ventures is a growth consulting executive coaching shared executive and financial advisory firm, George has consulted with over 750 startups since launching Red Rocket and works to help B2C and B2B entrepreneurs navigate the growth, fundraising and other business issues. He has published 101 startup lessons in entrepreneurs handbook and contributes to Forbes entrepreneur and the Wall Street Journal. Thanks for being here today George.
George: Oh it’s my pleasure John, thanks for the invite.
John: Well I know you’re really busy so I’m just gonna get right into it and if you can just let the audience members know a little bit about yourself, how you got to where you are and what do people know you by today.
George: Yeah perfect, you know I’m a serial entrepreneur my first experience with entrepreneurship was in Chicago, I was a founder and CEO of an adventure travel website called I explore, became the website called I explore became the had a deep partnership with National Geographic I was there for about ten years and got that business sold to a big European travel company called TUI and then from there you know I’ve been actively involved in early-stage startups and I’ve been the CEO of two or three other businesses, have been consulting through the red rocket business where I’ve had you know good success with the red rocket blog and getting a wide base of entrepreneurs trying to get you know how do they get their businesses off the ground and kind of learn how to scale their company. So today I have recently acquired a business called Restaurant Furniture Plus. It’s a B2T e-commerce business and then trying to scale that business just like I scaled my previous company, so that’s kind of a high level answer.
John: Know that’s amazing so before you started your own business I read that you were also an investment banker. So how did you get that itch to start your own company and why?
George: Yeah you know it’s interesting when you’re an investment banker and you’re taking around a bunch of executive teams to raise capital. You know I could either be on the transaction side and be on their IPO team or I could be the entrepreneur that is actually getting taken public and having a big liquidity event so to me I did that so many times as I said, I really want to try my hands at being an entrepreneur and building my own company and having some sort of success like my clients were having.
John: Know that’s amazing so was it an idea that you kind of just came across or were there people that kind of guided you, pushed you, like how do you get going really like get started.
George: Yeah so for that first business the adventure travel business I was a die-hard adventure traveler myself, I’ve been traveled all over the all over the world and exotic destinations and doing interesting things and in the late 90s my my high school friends wanted to plan a reunion to kind of get together and do a trip together and we wanted to go high summit Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and at the time this is well before the internet and places to find information and I put in hours and hours of work trying to find a expedition company that could help us and I said there has to be a better way and it was that experience of planning that adventure trip then I said there’s a business here to be built and let’s let’s build it under the I explored brand so that’s sort of how it came together.
John: That’s amazing I mean that’s always, I love hearing those stories because it’s like your passion right and it’s like a hobby that you always wanted to do and was this more like you kind of gave up your job to do it full-time or was it on the side like because you were probably getting used to a decent salary, build a lot of relationships like how did you come about quitting that piece of your career to do this.
George: Well yeah that’s a really insightful question, when you’re an investment banker and you have those golden handcuffs they call them it’s really hard to kind of let go but I knew that I was going to be successful and needed full-time focus so you know I took the last bonus check that year and decided I was gonna cut the relationship and leave a lot of good friends and experience behind and relocated from New York City to Chicago to get the business up and running.
John: Oh wow that’s amazing. So in terms of like the early years of starting that business to growing and scaling it like where did this business and knowledge come from did you have like coaches, mentors classes, group conference, how did you learn to grow that business.
George: Well you know it’s interesting certain the skills that kind of acquired over time I mean being an investment banker teaches you or taught you how to deal with the financial markets, then how do you raise capital and how do you pitch investors and some of the stuff you need to be successful as an entrepreneur. A lot of the other skill sets I was a first-time CEO, first time CEOs made lots of mistakes so you want to surround yourself by smart people that have done it before so I was actively involved networking with the local Chicago community and anytime I had a problem or a challenge I needed help with I knew who to tap to kind of help me see those problems.
John: Know that’s amazing like I’m still learning, I’m still making mistakes and you know I’ve been doing what I’m doing for the last six years and I totally get where you’re coming from it’s only the last couple years that I’ve started reaching out networking with other business, successful business owners and entrepreneurs but it’s always that fear factor of not knowing what they’re gonna say about you right and I found that entrepreneurs and other business owners are the most generous, most loving kind of people that want to support other like-minded people like this whole community is you may think it’s you know your competition or they are so busy but they’re so giving.
George: Well I think I know the pain that you’re running through, they live through that pain themselves so they can you know pay it forward and give it back to the community.
George: It kind of moves the ecosystem so, if the ecosystem is successful then everybody will be successful therein and a rising tide raises all ships.
John: Know that’s amazing because I’ve noticed that over the last couple years and now I’m more engulfed in slowly giving back my time as well right because I feel and I want to impact a larger group of people right and as long as you know someone’s reaching out to me I feel like I have some insight that I can give and help them move along their process in journey.
George: Well that’s sort of why I’ve launched Red Rocket right I mean I felt that as an experienced executive or early stage companies I had a lot to give back to the community and you know we started off with 10 blog posts and how to lessons to kind of teach entrepreneurs you know years and years later it’s now hundreds of lessons and three published books and it’s all given away for free to kind of give back to the community.
John: That’s amazing, I love those stories because until you take that first step and there’s a lot of doubt and it’s all self-inflicted too right like you actually did something about it and all these entrepreneurs and dreamers out there, they just gotta take action right and do something and it I love these stories of a you know building something and helping others because that’s what life is about like you get more passion and you get you know way more out of life when you see other people become successful or you help them along the way right.
George: Well the fear is taking that first step right I mean there’s a there’s a lot of unknowns when you’re in a comfortable job and you’ve got a salary and you’re in a rhythm and it’s and it’s comfortable for you, people are averse to change but you know once you take that first step and you realize how great entrepreneurship can really be and how much more rewarding it is, how much you’re learning and how much you’re you’re you’re taking your business to new heights it really has a great payback.
John: That’s amazing, so growing up was there someone you kind of looked up to like because you know being an entrepreneur or a business owner is completely different than just working a nine-to-five job or picking a career path right was there someone that you kind of dreamed to be or to push you along the way.
George: Well I mean there were several people in my family that had experience with entrepreneurship. My dad had launched his own companies and had have such success there and I worked with him in his business for a while, my uncle was an entrepreneur he has success scaling his business so you know I was expand exposure to it around the thanksgiving dinner table, so that was that was it that was part of it the second part of it was I just think entrepreneurship was built into my DNA from very very early age, you know when I was in high school I launched a kind of handyman service for my local community to make some extra money when I was in college. I had a comic book collectibles business that we were selling collectible comic books to make some money, so I understood from those experiences a little bit about how to build companies but I didn’t get really serious and professionalized until I got later in my career.
John: Know that’s I love those stories too because I look back now and I’m like did I really want to be an entrepreneur and then over the years I was a newspaper boy I had all these side hustles and then I actually were very passionate about those little things, more so than my real job right and then then I kind of took that on as like this is something I gotta do but yeah when you’re it’s in your DNA or there’s people that you surround yourself with that are also entrepreneurs it’s so much easier to kind of follow their footsteps or ask for advice and get guidance right especially someone you can trust right and that really helps with the communities that you’ve kind of built and what you know all entrepreneurs should be really doing to like surround yourself with like-minded people, create like a gathering or a network that you can support each other.
George: Yeah for sure you know it’s very much about surrounding yourself with talent because you know entrepreneurs are often lacking in a lot of different skill sets and to the extent they can surround themselves by people that have been there and done that before the higher odds of success their own startup will have because then you’re not reinventing the wheel, you’re not making the same mistakes that scores of entrepreneurs before you have made and you’re actually learning from them and kind of you know taking their experiences and applying it to your business.
John: That’s amazing so you I know I read that you have helped over 750 start ups. So are you actively like putting money into a lot of these startups or are you more of an advisory role like what kind of role are you playing?
George: Yeah so the Red Rocket business model really has a couple pieces to it so the first piece is a lot of entrepreneurs don’t necessarily have the right strategy for how they build a business plan or a sales and marketing plan to kind of take their product to market. So you know we help them think through those strategies and kind of skill you know their scaling plan that’s part one, part two is in addition to the strategy oftentimes they need execution against those strategies they don’t have the right people on staff to kind of execute those plans so they’re looking for a fractional chief marketing officer or Head of Sales to help them build their teams their process their budgets and actually execute the plan that came out of the strategy, the second piece and the third piece is they often need capital right so red rocket plays connect the dots to the most logical venture capital firms or angel investors that make sense for that particular story, we’ve got a deep rolodex of relationships that we kind of tie to. Now sometimes we’ll make our direct investments ourselves; those are few and far between, we tend to do more majority control kind of investments and minority venture investments before the right thing we would and it just as a function of how much we like the story and how much we think we can help the story.
John: Do you typically invest in people or the actual idea concept because you know I’ve been going to a lot of these startup events and you know their raising your VC and whatnot and it’s funny hearing from both sides and really it’s your money right? So how do you pick and choose what to invest in and how you invest.
George: Yeah for sure I mean the people are the most important thing to any option of investing in an A+ team working on a B+ idea or a B+ team working on an A+ idea I would much rather do the A plus team because they’re gonna they’re the ones with the experience that have been through the battles before, they’re gonna they’re gonna turn that B+ idea into something even greater than a B-plus idea. Whereas if you took the B-plus team that’s still learning and stubbing their toes you got a much higher odds that they’re not going to be able to make through the clutter that’s gonna hit them as they try to navigate the choppy waters.
John: Know I totally agree, so some of the biggest challenges you’ve kind of faced over the years in your own venture and could be your existing mistakes, Can you share some of them and how did you overcome them?
George: yeah let’s talk about the biggest mistake first and then I’ll talk about the biggest challenge so you know the biggest mistakes are when you’re building your team and you’re building your investor base and your board of directors you want to make sure that you’ve got the right people around the table that have the right skill sets to really be successful for your business particularly at the stage in which you are you’re growing so, for example you know I remember in my ads for days we had a bunch of fortune 500 executives around the table you know that I was going after the brand I said wow if I could get a head of marketing from Kellogg to come work for my startup that if that great brand name they must have a ton of experience, the same thing for our head of technology coming from Oracle or head of operations coming from a big brand name the reality is once you get working into a fortune 500 company the mindset is completely different right the budgets are completely different, there go to market strategies are completely different and it’s much harder to roll up your sleeves and do the job yourself on a shoestring budget and actually make it work for a start-up and the same thing goes on the capital side I was going after big brand name investors, I had investors like Soros and Madison Dearborn and the Chicago Tribune all involved with the business, but they weren’t really early stage investors they were later stage investors that were trying to play the dot-com boom and you know none of them really had experience on how do you take a piece of paper business at the very early stage and make it successful so surrounding yourself by talent that has experience in the size of business that you are to give it the maximum odds of success, so that’s that is an example of one of the mistakes we made and you know what I’ve learned from that. The second thing in terms of one of the biggest challenges I had to deal with you know when I was at I explorer you know we had to get through September 11th of 2001 I mean that was that was like torture, I was in a travel business where you know terrorists were using airplanes as missiles right so nobody really wanted to be traveling at that time and the travel industry took a huge hit we had a nice tremendous high growth trajectory everything was great we’re off to the races we’re in the middle of raising our final round of venture capital to carry us through profitability and then September 11th yet and everything fell apart and you know no revenues were coming in and the capital didn’t close and all the challenges on oh my god how are we gonna get through this really crisis situation, so you know we had a very loyal base of employees that really loved what they were doing they knew it was gonna be choppy waters for a few months until we can figure it out and we patiently waited for the markets to come back and any investors to return and started building I explore a second time after the market settle down so that was a really torturous experience I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy but it would really learned a lot and and taught me that it’s really about passion and persistence to kind of get you through the tough times.
John: Yeah and as a entrepreneur there’s never a steep steady growth curve like there’s always these peaks and valleys right and this is what you’ll learn in business, in life in the journey of everything that you’re kind of pursuing right as much as you want to be that straight line curve it’s never gonna be and those setbacks, just don’t let it get you and it’s hard to say on this podcast but if you truly think about the
positives and how to overcome them and try to prevent that from happening and things that kind of keep you going motivated right like stay positive because these setbacks they can easily you know close your
business or your dream or make you go into depression and you know all these other factors right and it’s the mental game.
George: Well it’s getting through those rainy days and the advice I gave entrepreneurs is that you know don’t plan so tightly that you don’t have a cushion. So if you think you need a million dollars to rate to fund your business well raise a million and a half just so you have a cushion to lean on so that if the market gets tight and you can’t raise new capital or business turns soft and you know you hit a blip in the road you’ve got that rainy day fund to kind of get you through those tough times.
John: Especially in the startup an environment in community right it all depends on the minds of the individual too because they perceive that they need the biggest, newest, best stuff think about it as a bootstrap kind of individual because at the beginning you should be profitable or try to go after either market share, gain audience, client whatever it is but think about it as your own money because that’s how you want to pitch right to show that you actually have sales and you’ve been foot on the ground and that’s the biggest thing that you have to really position yourself. Do the work, get sales, show there’s opportunity and there’s a lot of you know good signals out there in the marketplace that people are willing to commit right and buy.
George: You’re hitting the most important point is that sale solves all problems, if you have the revenues you have capital to run your business with, you’ve got ammunition to excite investors with, you know a lot of good things will happen from sales so you know one of my favorite quotes with entrepreneurs is “ It’s more about a proof of concept around your product than it is about the product itself.” You know they put so much time and energy into focusing on their widget or their features and functionality that they don’t want enough time around customers and revenues around that product.
John: I totally agree and it’s funny because I come from sales and marketing, like my background has always been in sales. I grew up starting like I went to school in finance and I was a door-to-door kind of b2b sales advertising sales from my first company like just working in the hard telephone sales outdoor door-knocking and I’ve always thought that there has to be an easier way, like the marketing schemes or advertising but end of the day people love buying from people they trust it’s relationships and if you can really get in the door in front of people that they might not even know what you offer but they like you and they see that you’re gonna actually do something and that’s how I started a company actually at local SEO search. I had no idea about SEO but I knew there was a problem at Yellow Pages and I could fulfill that need where I can help them get way better return on online, I just have to figure out how to do it right so I got buy-in from my old clients saying this is my vision, this is my goal and I went out and just bootstrapped and did that and built my team around it and just got revenue I’ve always been cashflow positive I always grew the company and it’s like just that kind of mindset and I haven’t – I’ve been going to the startup meetings and they’re not salespeople or they’re not even showing like they have that passion to see if there’s revenue right like why would I invest in someone that won’t even do anything about it right
George: Well I think I think part of the challenges most entrepreneurs fall into one or two camps they’re either a technologist that knows how to code and build some interesting piece of technology or product or they’re business people at the high level that’s got a vision right they’re veterinarians that are trying to launch some new company in neither case are they sales and marketing guys and connecting the dots between you know how much sales and marketing investment and sales team and process and creatives and all the stuff goes into building a sales and marketing budget is going to be required to kind of hit your revenue target they just kind of build a high-level model not realizing that a lot of work goes into driving those revenues and they got to really think it through and the venture capital community, you know they’re very focused on your cost to acquisition metrics and you know how does that compare to the average order size and how quickly you’re paying back on that investment and what’s your lifetime value with the revenues, those are the most important metrics that an entrepreneur should be focused on and many don’t have that experience
John: Yeah and I don’t know, I’m very fortunate I’ve been doing sales all my life so it comes sucking nature to me to build relationships and connect with people right and I find that it’s very difficult for business owners who have no experience in that field like sales and marketing to really grow their business right like I think that’s the number one thing business owners and entrepreneurs should really focus their skillset on because you’re pitching startup for funding you’re pitching your customer that idea right like go and practice take courses and trial and error go make mistakes right but that’s what you know failure does to you right like you have to pick yourself up if you’re really committed.
George: Yeah for sure, I mean you’re raising a good point on that if you’re raising capital for your business you have to give your salesperson yourself so making sure you know how to get the right pitch and you know as it relates to that, you know I tell entrepreneurs stop focusing on the what it is you’re trying to do and start focusing on the why. Why does it matter to this listener so instead of pitching your startup with all your features and functionalities and getting them excited about your product, pitch them on how this is going to be a good return on investment for them because they want it – that’s the most important thing that they need to hear, so it’s knowing who your audiences and pitching
John: Exactly, but figure out and but that’s coming from asking the right questions, connecting with them and then evolving throughout that presentation in pitch right like this is where a sales person who has done a lot of sales over the years will have a conversation. Figure out what their trouble and pain points are and then adapt to that conversation to really hit where it’s gonna be like wow this person can really help me right and come out of it saying I want to work with them it’s a matter of – it’s not how much, it’s when right
George: And it’s also about knowing who to pitch right oftentimes the early stage entrepreneur looks at all venture capital is exactly the same and I like to say you know venture capital is not all the same shaded green right you know the seed stage investor is different than an early stage investor is different from a growth stage investor one that likes to invest in the technology industries, one is different than one that likes to invest in the consumer industry or you know whatever those different variations are so making sure you’ve actually done your homework on the investor you’re actually pitching to make sure that your pitch will actually resonate because you can have the greatest pitch in the world if you’re pitching it to the wrong person it’s gonna fall flat.
John: So again it’s like know your audience right know exactly who they are, what they’re all about do your due diligence and then create a presentation or a slide or a sales presentation to that audience knowing exactly what they want right it’s like creating a resume to your ideal job you know exactly those keywords that they’re going after. If you don’t fit that don’t even apply but if you do, pitch it right like talk about that during the interview it’s the same thing it’s really basic concepts but people forget about it they think about like other things that they think that matter but ultimately you got to be clear on your vision right clear and concise messaging.
George: But it’s natural right there the entrepreneur is excited they’re building this baby business of theirs, they want to share the story of that baby business, they think everybody cares about this baby business, the reality that’s the other one that really cares about that baby business is that entrepreneurs and everybody else cares about what’s in it for them, if you just take that mindset on it’s not about your baby it’s about their baby you’ll have materially more success.
John: I totally agree I mean years of experience from you you’ve seen it all and I love hearing this stuff because I think I know but I don’t really know that community, but I think I’m on the right track because as a salesperson it’s like these things I’ve learned over the years, it still applies right it’s like very basic but yet people forget about why they’re doing what they’re doing but I love this. So in terms of like advice and tips people that are kind of just starting off, what kind of words of wisdoms would you give them especially in your space how can they kind of be successful what like what are the big things that you kind of can guide them to because you see a lot of failure out there and which is fine it’s like how do you overcome that and get better right like but what kind of things would you give them in terms of like advice.
George: I think the first thing would be, make sure you do your homework before you get started sometimes entrepreneurs are so excited about getting started and jumping into something that they haven’t fully fleshed out their idea and really looked at the marketplace and the competitors and figure out how big the industry is enough fastest growing, you have a reasonable chance of building the size a company that will attract venture investors so that would be my first point is just make sure before you start running full speed ahead take a pause, do a strategic planning process, think through what your mission is and your vision and what you know what do you think your core companies are gonna be, and how does that fit within the marketplace and how are you gonna block and tackle and build yourself a competitive mode and that kind of stuff before you even start right, so they can get that research work done first to make sure you know you have a reasonable chance of success because that process may teach you that “Oh my god I can only build a three million dollar business here or oh my god I didn’t realize all these big well-funded competitors are there and on venture capitalists it’s not going to want to put money into a fourth or fifth player in the space right so if you do your homework that would be the most important thing to start. The second thing I would say is you know we talked about it earlier the team is everything right and frankly you want a team that’s smarter than you are so you do not want to be the smartest person in the room if you want to surround yourself by much more smarter people that have been there and done that and have the expertise and can help your business succeed and make sure that they’re motivated for success because you know they’re gonna be on this adventure along the ride with you know.
John: Know, I mean you hit it on the nail in terms of like building the right team and I’ve been learning this over the years because I thought I knew everything, I still think I do but I have learned to kind of let go and say there’s a lot of smarter people and need them because they’re gonna teach me way more than I am gonna try to figure it out and it saves you time right end of the day it’s like expediting that process and as long as they’re passionate and they love what they do and they know what they’re doing it’s gonna further that business and your idea and your vision to expedite that process right like I’ve liked all these things I have kind of thought I knew it’s like it’s all coming around like I need to just get good people and go out and if I don’t know something, ask and go out and find out or figure out who’s the expert at that and go and reach out to them right what’s the worst that’s gonna happen they’re gonna say no.
George: Yeah I think it’s equally important in addition to the quality of the team and their expertise for that role, making sure too that they have the appetite for a start-up because being in a start-up environment is very different, very unstructured and some employees need everything buttoned up and a clear process and that’s anything but when a start-up really is, so you need someone that can help you navigate and get through those growing pains and and making sure that that senior team is in fact in alignment on the vision. You know in it in my I explorer business you know we have five senior executives and we all thought we were building the same company but they were different shades of gray right so the CTO might have been pulling us a little bit in one direction and our CEO might have employing us a little bit in another direction, our chief marketing officer might have been taking us in the third direction, the job of the CEO is to make sure we’re all pulling in exactly the same direction and there’s no distractions we’re all clear and everybody had buy into that vision so that you know everybody’s in alignment and agree you’re teed up for success.
John: You know that’s amazing I mean I’m slowly doing it on my business but on a local scale. I’m running a small business, it’s a lot different than trying to scale up to attack right you’re getting funding or not but it’s the same kind of fundamentals I think as a business owner running a small you know five million dollar company or trying to grow it to 50 or 100 million dollars right it’s the same fundamental things that a business owner entrepreneur has to go through right get a strong core of business you know people or people that are in different departments, IT, marketing, operations, HR whatever it is and make sure that whole goal and vision and mission is in alignment, weekly meetings, clarity and focus on slow incremental growth not huge growth because as a business owner I’m always talking about like that huge growth but in reality you have to be realistic right.
George: Well I think I think to put an exclamation point behind that is you can’t grow faster than you can reasonably fulfill and be successful. I’d like nothing more to scale my business from five million to 50 million overnight but I’m also smart enough to know that if I did that a 50 million dollar business has completely different rhythm and process and skill sets that are required to be successful that you just gotta make sure you kind of walk the the right road to getting there because if you don’t you’re gonna disappoint your employees, you’re gonna disappoint your customers and you have a higher odds of going to zero then you do going to 50 if you try to hit the accelerator too fast and the wheels of the bus fall off.
John: Yeah so I think that’s so important in terms of timing and just being realistic right and expectations too, like as much as you want it to grow like be real about it and as long as there’s achievement and growth potential and growth at least you’re on the right track.
George: Yeah for sure.
John: You’re able to pivot and as a start-up you need all these you know things to really keep you in line right well you know what I mean.
George: You made this comment about being able to pivot, I mean that is a very very important skill set to have right an entrepreneur that puts on the blinders and puts their head down and thinks they know it all and it’s gonna about ready to dry them off a cliff, will drive off a cliff right the the entrepreneur that realizes what their strengths and weaknesses are and surrounds himself by voices that can help mentor them in the right direction and actually listens to that mentor show I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given an entrepreneur good advice based on years and years of experience that they just don’t believe or they don’t think it’s the right thing to do and then they end up going out of business because they didn’t make the pivot fast enough. Now you know the flip side is you got to stay gotta stay committed to your vision, you gotta stay committed to that long term where you’re heading but the road and how you get there might be different than what you think it is and you got to be able to navigate quickly to kind of find, figure out where the lowest hanging fruit is.
John: Oh those are great.So in terms of like I know you mentioned you know when you first started your own business there was no technology right? like the internet or email and all this website stuff, blogs so how has technology changed over the years especially in this tech startup VC space that you’re in and how has that improved for some of the stuff you’re doing today versus when you started your business.
George: All right, well I think the most material changes in the dot-com boom of the 1990s you know technology was expensive to build right you needed millions and millions of dollars of money to put into software development and the people that were building that software and in today’s day and age you don’t need anywhere near that, you got a lot of open source software and software as a service companies that can fill in a lot of the holes for you the the the price of entry is a lot lower, so instead of you needing millions of dollars to launch your business now you need tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands to actually get a minimum viable product up and running it into the market and tested and scaling so the good news is it needs less capital, the bad news is it’s open up the door to millions of other entrepreneurs that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to launch their businesses so, the the competition for venture capital is higher than it’s ever been and I’ll use this example you know 20 years ago maybe a venture capitalist might have seen 200 business plans a year well today now they’re looking at two thousand business plans a year and they’re still making the same five or ten investments, you know out of that fund for the year so your odds of actually getting the money raised is a lot lot harder today so to the extent you can actually build a business that can be built on a shoestring budget and you can do it yourself without real up requiring outside support it’s better for you because one you control your own destiny and two you haven’t started a ticking clock to sell your company five years from now when the venture capitalist needs their exit.
John: Yeah do you find like a lot of the shows or media portrays this whole entrepreneur mindset or life to be this rosy picture because it seems like a lot of the younger generation where they have an idea they they put some money in and they think they know everything right so then they come to you for funding and you’re like it’s a great idea but who are you and why are you like, you have no experience so the demographics is it different today then before because before I’m sure people were looking at the experience in that team right today it’s hard for a younger person to have that experience and team if they’ve never lived it.
George: Yeah sure alright so you know the demographics of your entrepreneurs today I would say you have a couple interesting dynamics. I still think you got a wide range of ages, an entrepreneur in their 20s or an entrepreneur in their 50s I still see a wide range of age ranges obviously the ones in their 50s have got more career experience that they’re bringing to the table that may or may not be relevant to that particular story you know so you know you still need the expertise in that particular industry or product that they’re trying to build and they might to learn a new new trick of the trade in a new way but there’s a lot more younger entrepreneurs that have a lot of confidence and in themselves that they think they can do most anything they’ve been in a world where they you know had an opportunity to do a lot of things they get lots of unique experiences they got confidence in themselves and they they very much look at themselves equals to their to their peers that are in the 50s right so the reality is there’s a very fine line between confidence and arrogance and yes you need to be confident but you also need to know what your real strengths and weaknesses are and you don’t necessarily know everything and if you can surround yourself by people that have been there and done it before that can teach you and mentor you and shape your learnings and your trajectory, the higher odds of success you’ll have.
John: You know that’s a really good point because from what I see a lot of the younger generation, they they exclude a lot of confidence, they’re very much like dream like they have great ideas and they’re very creative and they’ve lived in a world of technology all their life right they grew up with a smartphone in their hand so they don’t really know how other people live in different generations so and they feel like empowered, they feel like they have a lot that more potential and they are able to adapt but they don’t really see how people live before either so it’s it’s a fine line I guess right from confidence and you know arrogance.
George: Yeah so I agree with that so it’s just a function to just making sure that entrepreneur you don’t want to do anything that stifles that excitement or that passion or you know that unbridled enthusiasm right but you need to do you need to maintain that while also at the same time knowing that you know here are holes in your own resume or your own experience set that you need to fill for you to really know the lay of the land here for you to be really successful.
John: Know it’s great, so in terms of networking events I know a lot of entrepreneurs just starting or thinking of or has a business for three five years and whatnot. Did you do much networking when you first started and how did you go about was an online forums, live events, go to conferences and what can you say about that?
George: Yeah networking is mission critical for startups to have success you know because now you’re bringing the power of the crowd to your story right you never know the six degrees of separation and how someone’s going to connect the dots to somebody who’s a potential customer for you or a potential partner for you or potential employee for you or potential investor for you or whatever it is. So the more you can put yourself out there the better I think the challenge with the with the early-stage startups are they’re so damn busy building their own businesses that they don’t make the time to properly network and that describe me when I was a first-time entrepreneur in my twenties, I was so busy heads down and trying to figure it all out that I did not make a ton of time for networking, it wasn’t till later my career like oh god that was really the hard way of doing this I really should have been doing a lot more networking earlier because the network can help me and you’re bringing the power of a lot of people’s brains and success to the table.
John: You bring up so many good points cuz over the first couple years when I first started a company I thought I knew everything, I didn’t need to go up and meet others and over the last couple years I’m like why am I not and now I’ve kind of grown and I’m learning about you know improving all my processes having you know systems in place because me it’s like just running a rat race right trying to figure everything else but if you see how other structures are built and you can get some feedback or guidance or input from others that have done it you’re so further ahead than trying to figure it out yourself and you’re saving time.
George: I think part of the challenge is they don’t know how to network right so you ask a question where we’re how do you meet these people right well part one is you know leveraging the people you know and trust and tapping into your closest relationships that’s the place to start, but you know not being afraid to go to a networking event where you don’t know anybody being able to work the room and smile and tell your story and shake hands and good stuff will happen from there so I love in-person events that makes sense you know networking online if there’s people that you think can help you know they’ve got experience in the industry don’t be afraid to reach out to them on LinkedIn or wherever the right places to find them online leverage your advisors, your bankers, your lawyers, your accountants even whoever your professionals are that you’re working with they are very well-connected people see who they know it’s happened to their expertise and good things will happen.
John: You know it’s great, it’s like spreading the word right let people know that you are out there and you want help or you and not be afraid of someone saying no or whatever it’s the same thing as sales right the ones that don’t do anything are the ones that give up, the ones as out there getting knows all day long they’re the ones that actually see movement and are hopefully doing good right like achievers.
George: Well I think I think the additional benefit is that it’s like free consulting and an entrepreneur that is so close to their business you know they’re seeing it with it right in front of their face, they’re in the weeds in the trenches day to day that sometimes they can’t see the forest through the trees. So when you’re at these networking events and you’re sharing your story and you’re getting alternative perspectives it gives you a chance to catch your breath, lift your head up and look around and realize what you’re really dealing with and actually not lose focus on the long term vision while you’re down in the minutia.
John: Yeah but that gives you a chance to pivot as well and gives you different perspectives, gives you a way to kind of self reflect and it’s great I love this because I’m starting to go and like do a lot more networking and it’s a lot of fun and I embrace it I’m out there giving as much as I can and it’s just enjoying it right the entire process
George: But it’s definitely a two-way thing you can’t – it can’t be all taken no gifts, just remember it’s a two-way street and whatever advice you’re giving you’re asking to be given to you be prepared to give that back to somebody else or help that partner let’s say you’re trying to get advice from a lawyer well he might meet a client new client someday if you know that there’s a another company looking for a new lawyer and that guy helped you connecting the dots so he can you know get a new client out of it it’s a two-way street.
John: Exactly so in terms of what drives you today like I know you moved to North Carolina so what continues to drive you what’s motivates you, what’s your passion purpose today as opposed to back when you first started.
George: Well I mean a lot of stuff that drives me today is similar to where I was before, I still want to be associated with great successful high-growth companies that you know are on a high trajectory for success so I still love the the DNA of being an entrepreneur and building company so that part hasn’t changed the the thing that’s different today is I have a lot more experience today than I had 20 years ago. So I’m not as stressed out as I used to be no worried and panicked and living on the edge I know that I’m going to get through it regardless of what gets thrown my way whether it’s good or bad I will figure it out and I’m not gonna get into crisis mode as I used to, you know I’m making more time for my family right how many family is equally important to this – to you’re happy and well-being as the businesses so making sure you make time for yourself as important to just clear your head and know it’s really important in life and you know giving back where you can right I’ve been fortunate my career to be know successful and had a lot of good stories to share and I’m happy to share those stories.
John: know these are really great pillars because life is not just business right it’s more about what you learn and be curious, make mistakes and stay a lifelong learner because failure is what you know gets people rattled but it’s how you overcome those failures.
George: Yeah for sure, I mean the passion and the persistence to get through those bad days.
John: Yeah and myself like my number one thing is family right so the reason I’m doing what I’m doing is I love what I do but when it comes to detrimental time with family, my family always is first right I even put like in the calendar health, go to his gym and these are times I block off because it’s really for myself it allows me to like reflect as well and go through all that but I never used to do this and you know maybe my relationships weren’t as strong but now that I have, I sleep better, I love what I do when I’m there I’m present right and that’s the most important thing too just be present wherever you are and don’t get rattled with other things on your mind, let it go.
George: Yep for sure I think those are good words of wisdom.
John: But it cherished every moment too like not just big moments but micro moments and I’ve learned this over the years like I I’m so grateful that I was able to work with over 5,000 local business owners and they gave me insight and just learning about them being an experienced business owner versus me just starting off right just little pieces of wisdom and I’m learning a lot from you, it’s great and you know because I don’t really understand your world right and I’m starting to get into it and I love how you give your perspective and hopefully you had fun too.
George: Yeah I had a ton of fun thank you very much for the invite John.
John: Yeah so how do your listeners get a hold of you,your business, social media feeds.
George: Yeah I mean they can get me through the red rocket website which is redrocketvc.com as in venture capital and you can catch me on LinkedIn,you can catch me on twitter @georgedeeb and i’m happy to help anybody that has a problem.
John: Really appreciate all your time George I know you’re busy I really want to thank you for being on the show and hopefully some of the listeners can take some of the feedback that you gave and apply it to your own business especially if your startup business and looking for funding or you know have a great idea
George: This is a great service you’re providing entrepreneurs hopefully they become active and loyal readers of your blog and your podcast.
John: Well thanks a lot George definitely we’ll stay in touch but I do want to thank you for giving a lot of your great insight and valuable time.
George: It’s my pleasure.