Eons Founder Stirs the Crowd at CEO Breakfast
I spent three hours this morning chatting with some 30-odd other entrepreneurs at a fascinating CEO breakfast get-together put on by local networking guru Trudy Kightley. I counted folks from at least seven countries, working in biotechnology, medical devices, web video, speech, robotics, and a lot more—just the kind of hodgepodge of backgrounds and expertise that fuels innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit.
Emceeing the show (formally called Trudy’s CEO Breakfast Forum and held in the MIT Faculty Club) was special guest Jeff Taylor, the founder of Monster.com and now Eons, an Internet portal for the over-50 set. I’ll post some highlights below—including answers to three questions Taylor put before the group, igniting some folks and mildly irking others. But first a story Taylor told about how he got funding for Eons from Michael Moritz, the famed venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital in Menlo Park, CA, and an early backer of Yahoo and Google. It illustrates some key traits of entrepreneurship (one of Taylor’s questions).
Taylor got no honeymoon treatment for Monster from Moritz, who told him he doesn’t typically fund second-time entrepreneurs, because they don’t work as hard as first-timers. Moritz told Taylor he would make three predictions to illustrate his point. According to Taylor, the conversation went something like this:
“You flew out here first class. You had someone else put together your PowerPoint. You hired 10 friends to help start your company.”
Taylor pushed back, telling Moritz he flew out to California with General Catalyst founder David Fialkow—and that while Fialkow rode in the front cabin, he flew coach. “I just stayed up all night putting together this presentation,” he related. Furthermore, he told Moritz, he was working alone so far—3,200 square feet of space, no friends along for the ride.
“We can continue the presentation,” Moritz replied, and the rest was history, of sorts. Sequoia and General Catalyst put up $10 million for Series A financing in the spring of 2006. They were also in on a $22 million Series B round that closed this March.
One point of the story was the need for perseverance—and how an entrepreneur must also be a salesperson. Another point was maybe to tell you how to get funding from Mike Moritz (okay, that probably was not the point). In any case, Taylor used the story as part of an exploration into entrepeneurship. Rather than give a presentation himself (“I feel over-exposed in Boston”), Taylor asked everyone else to stand and talk about their companies. Here are the three questions he asked:
“What is your definition of an entrepreneur?”
“How much money is enough money?”
“What do you do in your spare time that makes you an interesting person?”
Not everyone was happy with the focus on money, and found some of the questions perhaps a bit condescending. But most got into them. Here’s a selection of answers:
On entrepreneurship (the word “passion” was used seven or eight times, by Taylor’s count):
— “You can do every job, but don’t try.”
— Entrepreneurs learn the alphabet with only 24 letters: they’re missing “N” and “O.”
On how much money is enough money (some took it literally and some took it figuratively):
— One table came up with either $6 million or $30 million. The reasoning: the goal was to live off the interest, and they differed about how much interest was enough interest. I don’t get the math, but somehow they translated these two nest egg amounts to $50K per month or $300K per month.
— Joost Bonsen (an Xconomist) came up with a formula: “Enough to do what you want to do next.” I chimed in with a suggested amendment—what you need to do next.
On what makes you an interesting person (we didn’t get a lot of takers here):
— One person made different kinds of beer.
— Another proclaimed himself boring.
— The best answer of the day, from Joe Hogan, CEO of Anthill Technologies, a Medford, MA, firm that does high-speed chemistry for drug discovery: “I don’t care if I’m interesting or not. I’m interested.”