Learning From Experience

My father once said “Always try to learn from other people’s mistakes. It saves you a bunch of time.” But he could have also said “Learn from other people’s success. It saves you a bunch of pain.” When looking for mentorship, finding someone who has proven themselves and whose advice goes against conventional thinking is a good tactic. My friend Ray Zinn is that mentor. It is hard to understate what Ray has accomplished in business … and in life. He founded a semiconductor company in Silicon Valley without venture capital. He ran that company as the visionary founder for 37 years. He was profitable the very first year, and for every year thereafter (except for one year during the dot-com era meltdown, and the one “unprofitable” year was due largely to a write-down for shuttering an extra fabrication facility). His company had the lowest employee turn-over rate in his industry, and likely … Continue reading

The Investing Game

Venture investing is all too similar to the Dating Game (and if you got that reference, you might be old enough to be an investor). The Dating Game was a loathsome television product of the 1960s whereby a single woman would choose from three likely suitors through a blinded question and answer process (though occasionally a man would select from a trio of ladies). Being Hollywood, the show’s contestants were frequently publicity seeking entertainers, some of whom later actually made it in the business (Sally Field appeared one year before becoming a religious aviator). Mostly the program was a demonstration of showmanship over substance as several men attempted to sound suave enough to be datable. Much like an investor pitch session. The start-up/investor match making process remains a relatively unorganized mishmash, where waves of undesirable and ill prepared entrepreneurs seek the favors (and fortunes) of investors. For a match to … Continue reading