Big thank you to Steve Hall for speaking at a pre-Snowpocalypse Rock Star Venture Capitalist on Tuesday, January 17. Steve brought a fresh perspective and practical advice in his “A VC’s Guide to Joining the Right Startup” presentation.

After a brief introduction, Steve jumped in with why joining a startup is like being a VC. In his view, both VCs and those thinking of joining a startup eed to look for the same things. Here are the highlights:

1 Execution over ideas.
Ideas do not make a great company, but execution does. Think Facebook, not Friendster.

2 Due diligence is critical.
Understand the market and the competition. If you are not willing to pay for the product or service, why would anyone else? There will always be gaps in due diligence, but minimize them.

3 “Know where the puck is going” ~ Wayne Gretzky
Some great local examples of Gist and Redfin. Be sure to join the company for what it will be tomorrow.

4 Understand valuation and stock option value
This resonated the most with me. Startups are typically not prepared to deal with sophisticated questions around valuation. If you are willing to take the risk, they should provide a picture of the value of options as compensation.

5 Diversify
Time is capital. Give an opportunity 2-3 years, if it is not there do not be afraid to cut your losses.

Thanks again, Steve, a true Rock Star!

Matt McIlwain, Madrona Venture Group

Many, many thanks to Matt McIlwain for speaking at Rock Star Venture Capitalist on November 7. Matt has a reputation for bringing his “A game” and this was no exception. Approximately 65 people from cross-sections of UW and the Seattle startup community took in Matt’s observations of the ingredients of a successful entrepreneur.

The talk started out broadly setting the stage of innovation as a journey and how it is a critical part of the economy. The long term benefit is a ecosystem with network effects. Specifically, Microsoft beget Real Networks, Real Networks, ADIC, F5 and UW CSE helped beget Isilon and now Isilon has beget Clustrix and Corensic. Matt believes, as many here do, that Seattle is uniquely positioned to be not only as major tech hub, but one that can be bigger than Austin, Boston, Los Angeles and New York. The ecosystem and the entrepreneurs who thrive in the ecosystem are key.

Matt then detailed how there are 4 key ingredients of the successful entrepreneur:
Key Entrepreneur Ingredients

1) Customer Focus
Sunny Gupta of Apptio is a great example of relentless customer focus. He understands not only value creation but also value capture.

2) Domain Passion
Glenn Kelman of Redfin is so passionate about the domain, even through he had no prior experience in it, that Redfin has seriously disrupted real estate. Check this 2008 Forbes article for how disruptive Redfin has been.

3) Curiosity
Andy Liu of BuddyTV personifies how entrepreneurs must dream and execute.

4) Humility
Brad Jefferson of Animoto is a prime example of not letting ego stand in the way of success. Animoto stopped and redesigned their architecture around the then newly emerging AWS platform.

Thanks again to Matt, a true Rock Star!

Start-Up Culture by VC Greg Gottesman from Foster School of Business on Vimeo.

Last month Greg Gottesman accepted my invitation and spoke at Rock Star Venture Capitalist #2. He did an awesome job going through 13 characteristics of great companies as he has observed through his many years in the VC game. Check out some of the highlights and the original post on the Foster Unplugged blog.

Thanks again to Greg, a true Rock Star!

Greg Gottesman

A big thank you to Greg Gottesman for speaking at my Rock Star Venture Capitalist Series last night. The Paccar Hall room was packed with MBA’s, biotech PhD’s, Computer Science graduate and undergraduates as well as folks from Cheezburger and the Seattle startup community.

Greg gave an excellent talk on startup culture, funding tips and his famous Junior Mint story. Greg is a true “Rock Star” who has my appreciation and thanks.

Brad Feld @ UW!

Huge thank you to Brad Feld for accepting my invitation to come talk to UW. In spite of the snow, which ridiculously shuts the city down, approximately 80 people from MBAs, biotech PhD candidates, computer science graduate students, VCs, entrepreneurs and the local startups Impinj, BigDoor made their way to Paccar Hall at University of Washington last night.

Brad kept the audience interested with a wide range of topics from marathon running as an analogy for business and why we will all have embedded electronics in 20 years. Questions ranged from TechStars to startup visa and intellectual property and how to get more connected to entrepreneurial communities. Brad blogged about it here.

His book Do More Faster is a must read. If for anything, you learn why Brad wants to grow up to be just like the Jedi Master Yoda.