When putting together a team, Fern Mandelbaum, Partner at Monitor Venture Partners, focuses on the CEO.She looks for someone who is incredibly committed, persevering, a great listener, attracts talented people, and knows their strengths and weaknesses.
Mandelbaum has been an entrepreneur her whole life, starting her first company at the age of 3.She spent her early career years working at companies she was not passionate about and these experiences taught her that she could sell anything to anyone.When she decided to work on something that really inspired her, she discovered that a great group of advisors was an indispensable resource.
Mandelbaum sold her first major company, Skyline Toys, when the company was at a critical juncture: they either need to find a strategic partner or raise a lot of money. A perfect partner was found in IDEO, and she sold the company.Mandelbaum decided to take her career in a new direction because she was intrigued by the opportunities of the internet and was interested in joining a venture firm.
When deciding what companies to invest in, Mandelbaum spends a lot of time with the prospective company.She considers what skills the founders have and what positions they could fill in the company through time.She wants only the companies that have great aspirations, not just the ones that want to be good.Finally, she considers the IPO scenarios available to the company.
A common problem Mandelbaum sees in new companies is an unwillingness of the founder to let go.The mark of a great entrepreneur is the ability to recognize what skills you have and what tasks would better be left up to someone else, she says.Choosing the best people and board members is essential to the future of the company.
The most important piece of advice that Mandelbaum would give to an aspiring entrepreneur is to surround oneself with great people and ask these people lots of questions.Take the opportunity to meet with as many people as possible because they could potentially become a best friend, she suggests.
Mandelbaum did not consciously make the decision to shift her life's work, but was asked by two friends to help them with their new venture firm.This was in 2002, and a very difficult time to start this type of company.She got very involved in the challenges of the project and decided to commit herself to what Monitor Ventures was trying to do.
Mandelbaum believes that the best, and arguably most valuable, part of business school is the people you meet.She recommends working before going into business school to provide some experience that can be shared among classmates.Though the business school material can be learned just about anywhere, the experience, because of the networking possibilities, is invaluable, she adds.
Mandelbaum answers a question she thinks about every day: How does she make time for what is the most important part of her life, her family, while making sure her companies stay alive?She checks in with her family everyday to see that they are happy.She also recommends listening to advice from friends that have older children and have gone through many of the challenges of parenthood before.
Mandelbaum talks about how luck and timing are key factors in entrepreneurial success.Commitment and perseverance are also essential.In most cases, if you try hard enough and are willing to do whatever it takes, the company can be successful, she notes.
Mandelbaum moved into the outdoor toy market because she loves sports and outdoor games.She is thriving at Monitor because they focus on companies that have developed innovative applications for technologies that exist, rather than brave new world startups.
The paradox in starting a company is trying to get funding without any team while trying to get a team without any funding, says Mandelbaum.She also emphasizes that the solution to the paradox is to find a way just get to that next step, where there will be different opportunities and different risks.
Mandelbaum answers the questions: How much of my business idea should I reveal to investors?She believes that if you have a great team and a developed idea, it is fine to talk about the idea with investors.If you never talk about it, it will never get anywhere, she adds.
Mandelbaum is optimistic about the opportunities in the market today based on her assessment of holiday parties, which she believes are a valuable indicator of market climate.
Mandelbaum suggests that one should surround themselves with really great people in order to bolster their chances of success.But how can we meet these people?She explains that you can meet people anywhere, from Border's to the supermarket. You never know where a valuable relationship might develop, she adds.
Williams believes that entrepreneurship can be taught as it is a combination of skills and intense desires that drive a person to overcome challenges.
Mandelbaum believes that one is born an entrepreneur.A person can learn the basics of entrepreneurship, but the willingness and eagerness to take risks should come naturally and cannot be taught.A great entrepreneur is someone who keeps the team going through the bad times when the future looks dim, she notes.
Even without money for salaries, people are often attracted to companies with equity, says Mandelbaum.Obviously, equity is more attractive for people early on in their careers without a family to support and mortgage payments to make, she adds. However, there is angel money available right now from people looking for great ideas, so equity doesn't have to be the only compensation option.
Mandelbaum recommends trying to meet someone that has connections in the venture capital community.It is very difficult to approach a venture firm unsolicited, but much easier with the introduction of an influential person in the community.Take advantage of opportunities to get in touch with venture capitalists, she suggests.