11 Candid Truths About Entrepreneurship From VC Mark Suster

Yesterday, we listened to venture capitalist Mark Suster speak at DogPatch Labs.

Suster spoke about his career, plus shared a lot of hilarious, honest insights with a room full of entrepreneurs.

The unguarded Suster didn’t hesitate to put everything into perspective.

“The auto industry is $1.6 trillion, and you want to f*ck with bars and restaurants?!” he says of all the Groupon clones.

And candidly, “One thing VCs never talk about is how screwed founders get.”

'The best training I ever got for running a company was being president of my fraternity. Leadership skills come from doing, not reading.

'I had to deal with everything from litigation, to fundraising, to collecting dues, to accepting and kicking out members, to planning social events.

'Doing that at age 19 was the best training I ever had.'

'It sounds obvious, but the best way to avoid getting screwed is to succeed.

'If you are successful, or perceived as being successful, then VCs won't want to replace you.

'Also, stay well connected in the VC community. If you have options in life, you won't get screwed.'

'Start a company yourself, then hire a cofounder and give him or her 15% or even 40%, but not 50% of the company.

'Treat that person like your true business partner. Show them respect; tell the world that person is your cofounder. But do not give them half of the company.

'That way, if you ever fall out of love with that person, you have a pre-nup.'

'I ran into a founder last week of a company at least 50% of this room has heard of. Now, he only owns 1% of his company.

'I told him it's time to cut the umbilical cord and move on. I think he fell for the VC narrative. And that outcome is so common I can't tell you.'

'More often than not, cofounder situations blow up. The reality is most companies don't succeed.

'A cofounder needs to be a great cultural fit for you. It should be someone you want to spend late nights with, share hotels with, and who who doesn't freak out when you're stressed.

'The guys who went to high school together, who knew they always wanted to work together, wake up one day and realise their 31-year-old cofounder has a girlfriend. They realise they're busting their arse for someone who doesn't care.

'Start a company yourself, then hire a cofounder.'

'Persistence, persistence, persistence. That's my #1 piece of advice for entrepreneurs.

'I'm surprised at how few entrepreneurs follow up. I'll see them a year later and they'll say, 'You weren't interested,' and I'll say, 'How do you know?'

'I'm not trying to excuse myself, but it's really hard to have portfolio companies, respond to so many emails in a day, and still have two kids and a wife.

'If you try once and give up, you don't have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. You'll never succeed in sales or business development.'

'Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

'There are a lot of crocodile sales people with big mouths and small ears. They do a lot of talking; they only stop to listen to figure out the next time they can talk.

'Those people don't genuinely listen to other people's points of view.

'I think debate is healthy. I think trying to understand another person's point of view in a debate is the healthiest.'

For more advice about entrepreneurship, check out:

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