SAN FRANCISCO – Some sagely advice for entrepreneurs: Don’t innovate just to make money. Make meaning, says Guy Kawasaki, managing director for an early-stage venture capital firm who worked on Apple’s revolutionary Macintosh computer.
“If you make meaning you will probably make money. If you set out only to make money you will attract the wrong kind of people,” said Kawasaki, who spoke Friday at Real Estate Connect 2005, an industry conference with a focus on real estate innovation and technology. Kawasaki, who has authored several books, including “The Art of the Start” and “Rules for Revolutionaries,” runs Garage Technology Ventures.
Entrepreneurs should be working to increase the quality of life of their consumers, he said, and in real estate there are inherent opportunities to enrich lives, he said. “If there is an industry that represents making meaning, it is this one. It is about the American dream, it is about piece of mind,” he said.
Action is better than analysis, he said, as entrepreneurs can get bogged down by over-analyzing an idea.
Bad ideas can be a product of gender-specific tendencies, he suggested. “Men have a predisposition in their DNA to want to kill things. They want to kill animals, they want to kill plants, they want to kill other people,” he said, describing this as a fundamental genetic flaw.
“A man will always say, ‘Yes, that’s a great idea. Let’s kill the competition.’ If you really want to get valuable feedback ask women what they think of the idea,” Kawasaki added.
Entrepreneurs should be able to sum up the ultimate purpose of their new innovations in a few words, he said, referring to this short phrase as a “mantra.” Simple is better, he said, especially in delivering presentations about your big idea.
Find a niche, set real milestones in crafting and delivering a product, and to hire people who enthusiastically latch onto the product — even if they don’t have the rich educational background and related experience that employers typically use to judge applicants.
Successful entrepreneurs typically have a right-hand counterpart who brings skills to the table that they lack, and he said innovators should not be afraid to hire employees who are better than them. “You need to fight the ‘Bozo’ explosion,” he said, referring to a phenomenon in which employers surround themselves with a crowd of sub-par employees.
Don’t forget to give back to society, he also said. “It is not about what a person can do for you, it is about the inherent value you receive by helping people. Do the right thing, the right way. You change the world, you make people happy, more creative, you improve their lives, perpetuate good things and end bad things.”
Two other venture capitalists — Michael Moe, chairman and CEO for ThinkEquity Partners, and Mark Sherman, a partner with Battery Ventures — took the stage after Kawasaki’s presentation.
Moe said that his company places emphasis on four “P’s” in choosing its investments. People, he said, are ultimately the most important factor in financing an idea, followed by the product itself, the potential of that product, and the predictability of the business model.
Last year venture capitalists pumped out about $16 billion in the United States, he said, with about 25 percent going to software companies, 19 percent to biotech and 24 percent to miscellaneous categories.
He said the business landscape today is vastly different than in years past. While U.S. auto-related companies and railroads were major fixtures among the top-100 companies in 1925, for example, they are absent from today’s top-100 list.
Sherman said, “It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur in general, and a great time to be an entrepreneur specifically targeting real estate and mortgage (industries).” He noted the explosion in Internet use, and said there is a lot of experimentation and opportunity because of the huge shift in consumers’ behavior.
He said advertising dollars tell the story. “There is just massive offline to online (advertising) shift, and those ad dollars are following the eyeballs. It’s Web traffic — millions of people using the Web everyday. Consumer behavior is a big driver here. Everyone is using the Internet to make large, high-dollar purchase decisions.”
While there is a lot of opportunity for real estate and mortgage innovations, Sherman said he expects the housing market to slow down a bit in the short-term. In the long-term, though, he expressed optimism. Opportunity in the real estate sector “has decades of legs to it,” he said.
Sherman also said he sees continuing trends in the aggregation of online data, in video and in mobile technologies.”
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