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Since the storyline of “things are stable” doesn’t exactly keep people on the edge of their seats, the conversation edged toward more general advice for entrepreneurs. Here are some highlights:
—On management experience: Waite said he sits on eight or nine boards, and about half of the companies are run by second-time entrepreneurs. “I don’t have to worry about these guys every day. They have judgment and tenacity. I don’t want to run a company. If I wanted to run a company, I’d run one,” Waite says. McIlwain offered a different perspective, saying he had just finished reading a biography of John D. Rockefeller, which noted he was an inexperienced guy in a new, unproven industry when he started. “He wasn’t constrained by what happened in the past,” McIlwain says.
—On making the pitch to VCs: “Be yourself,” Waite says. “Sometimes the big fancy multimedia presentations turn me off. Simpler is better.” McIlwain said he wants to hear people talk about the burning idea that made them give up their cushy job at Google or Microsoft to run a startup. In one case, an entrepreneur (probably not a cardiovascular disease researcher) told him his diet switched to chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese every day while he was obsessed with his new company idea. “I want to know about the insight that led you to change your life,” McIlwain says.
—On what it will take for Washington to climb the charts to approach California as a hub for venture investing. “An earthquake in the San Andreas fault,” Waite quipped. Looking years down the road, McIlwain said, “aspirationally, we could overtake Massachusetts in time. Maybe not in biotech because there’s a much deeper base of biotech and medical research there. But we should really be rooting for the Microsofts, the Amazons, the Clearwires, and the RealNetworks. The more of those companies succeed, the better it will be for startups in the region.”
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