One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past two years is that I must have an investment thesis to evaluate my opportunities. Without one, I succumb to the entrepreneur’s disease: taking on too many seemingly good opportunities and doing none of them well. A good example of someone who has a clear investment thesis is Fred Wilson, who only invests in startups that are “building large networks of engaged users that can disrupt big markets.”
So here’s mine, whether as a founder, advisor or investor, in no particular order. A project must:
- Make money (business) or be self sustaining (nonprofit)
- Solve a real problem
- Makes peoples’ lives better in a real, measurable way
- Give me a platform to talk about the things I believe in
If an opportunity doesn’t fit these points, I’m not interested. No social photo apps. No group texting. No opaque finance deals. No businesses that exist solely for making money. There are enough good opportunities for me that I know I can both work on projects that make money and that make the world a better place. Nothing else.
Do you have an investment thesis? If so, what is it?
My main projects I’m working on right now all fit this criteria:
An organization that teaches entrepreneurship to Chileans who want to launch a business. We’re currently teaching classes in three Chilean universities, launching an online course and making our content available to as many Chileans who want to learn as possible. We are changing people’s lives by empowering them to take control of their lives. The program works and many of our students have launched profitable businesses, both in tech and traditional industries.
An online store that sells condoms with home delivery. Previously, the only way to purchase condoms in Chile was to go to a pharmacy, take a number, wait in line and then ask the pharmacist for condoms while all of the other clients are watching you. Sometimes the pharmacist looks at you condescendingly, other times other customers look at you disapprovingly. The process is embarrassing, especially for Chileans who live in a culture where, in many families, sex is still a taboo, a somewhat shameful activity, even for someone in their mid 20s. Most schools don’t have sex education. So many Chileans just don’t buy condoms, especially women. I have friends who drive 3+ miles away from their house to buy condoms just to not run into anyone they know. Plus they’re about double the price of condoms in the US. The system is broken, so we’re fixing it with La Condonería.
I wrote the book to help people have a soft landing in Chile and avoid making the mistakes I made when I first got here. The book is the guide book I’d wished I’d had before I came to Chile and will make sure people have as good of an experience as I did.
After South By Southwest in 2010, I decided Madison should have a tech festival just like Austin. So along with two friends, we started The Forward Technology Festival. August 2013 will be the fourth festival. It gives me the platform to talk about entrepreneurship in Wisconsin and outside of the coasts.
In 2008 Madison, WI, didn’t have a good place for entrepreneurs to get together, so along with a few other entrepreneur friends, we created Capital Entrepreneurs, a way for entrepreneurs to share their experiences and get to know each other. Five years later, it’s growing like crazy and has more members than ever. It gives me the chance to interact with a group I care about.