As a millennial, the runway to success is connection. It is finding genuine interest in people and looking to be of service. SXSW is a ideal to meet leaders from various industries and fields. SXSW is unparalleled in the ability to meet innovative leaders who are making impact and looking to connect and move the needle forward. During my trip to SXSW I had the pleasure of being able to meet and interview John Frankel. John is the founding partner of ff Venture Capital and has been a seed- and early-stage investor since late 1999. John focuses on advising and growing technology and technology-enabled companies across emerging industries, he has served on the boards of more than 35 companies and has led investments in more than 80 companies, including Cornerstone OnDemand (CSOD), Indiegogo, Ionic Security, Unikey, Socure, Skycatch, Plated, 500px, Distil Networks, and Bottlenose. In addition to all of the great things above, John's firm FF Ventures also throws one of SXSW's best parties called ffMassive !
John has a very intriguing view of the world and I thoroughly enjoyed the interview with him. Similar to me, John had an encyclopedia growing up and encyclopedia's were a big deal. They were a staple in gathering information and played a huge role in educating generations of people. The difference between an encyclopedia and the internet is obvious. However, the difference in what people do with the two is something to address. When we talked, John shared some insight that I know you'd benefit from reading.
When John was a kid, he mentioned that his parents bought their family a set of encyclopedia britannica, why did they do that? Because they thought exposing their children to the information would help them in their development. Now everyone is carrying orders of magnitude greater in their hand and it is available to billions people in the world. The difference in access is astounding. However how many people are truly using the tools?
As a millennial, I am extremely grateful for the access that technology has granted me. The time we live in now is like none other and truly a privilege. When asked about people's potential in this age John stated:
Access to information is major. The quality of access is phenomenal.. The quantity is up to people.... It depends on whether or not they want to use it to play angry birds or get higher SAT scores. You can't make people do one vs the other. I do believe you end up with an interesting world, where if you have the drive and belief in yourself, you can achieve so much more today than you could 50,100,200 years ago.
Many shriek when they think about the fact that the jobs that were once secure are fading away and no longer viable options in career preparation. I wondered John's thought process on how technology has/will affect the world. His overall message was that It is a great world to be in, it also means that there is much less security. Theres much more volatility, businesses aren't around as long as they used to be. It kind of shocks me that Kodak lost photography. Kodak owns the Kodak moment. Industries are beginning to realize that if they don't include technology, they will be disrupted.
In a world that glamorizes entrepreneurship and an abundance of startup founders ranging from college students to second-career professionals they MUST find a way to differentiate themselves. Otherwise you get left in the crowd. John has worked with a large number of startup founders and through his experience he has a thought about what differentiates them. John noted that out of the many founders that step across his door, this is what is important in order to stand out in the crowd. John said that in order to stand out this is necessary: There needs to be a team of people who have the capability to drive a delusionally optimistic idea to help change the behavior of millions of people. We invested in a company called Unikey. Phil had the idea that we could change the way that everyone unlocks their doors. Hundreds of thousands of people every day use the Unikey lock everyday .
It comes from taking something that works in the analog world and making it digital. We like to be really early into markets. We backed indigo before crowd-funding was big.
Intuition vs. Facts: I am a huge believer in the power of intuition. So it was natural for me to ask John his thoughts in weighing out intuition and facts. He was able to marry the two in a way that both are able to live in their own space and have merit. He said: Everybody thinks differently. I am a very intuitive thinker. Intuition is very important. After our intuition is taken into consideration, we run a due diligence process and then we look at the deeper layer and cross all the facts. Yin and a yang to the process, the left brain and right brain to the process. This creates a balance that has helped in the success of our firm.
Many people battle sharing their "ideas" with the thought that it will get stolen. John shared a fact that many people fail to realize in entrepreneurship.
John made it clear that execution is what really matters in the entrepreneurial world. Gary Vaynerchuk had a video today that spoke about the "idea" of Uber already being executed on five years ago by a company called Magic Cab. It was the execution that made the difference. John clearly stated that if you have a good idea, tell everybody. The lie of the move the social network was that the idea was worth anything. It's all about execution. If you have a really good idea, you have to ram it down people's throats in order for anyone to accept it.
John also shared his superpower with us... and it may be different from what you imagined. It is:
I know that I know very little. When I talk to people I'm always trying to learn and put things into a framework so that I can understand it.
From my experience, much of the entrepreneurship mindset has to do with is not knowing and the embracing of ambiguity.
Embrace not knowing because arrogance puts a blinder on learning - Michael Hamilton