Rich Vogel started his career on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Today, Rich is the CFO and COO of venture collective, Loeb.nyc, where he and Michael Loeb (CEO, Founder), build good ideas into great businesses. Rich has experience founding, funding, growing, launching and selling startups in a range of industries. Here are some of Rich’s top tips for entrepreneurs to succeed at every stage of growth.
1. Focus on what you’re good at.
You are naturally gifted at certain things. Don’t spend too much time building up skills that don’t leverage your natural abilities; don’t try to match the skill-sets of those around you, just to fit in. Sure, you need to be competent at a lot of things – but focus on and spend time enhancing your gifts… that will be your career accelerator.
There are a lot of things that Michael Loeb and I have come to learn about ourselves over these last twelve years. We’ve now put a company together that is built to leverage what we’re good at – and we’ll remain disciplined about not draining emotional capital in directions that don’t capitalize on our experience or sweet-spots.
2. Find a solution to a real problem.
Solve a problem that hasn’t been solved before – and make sure its a problem that actually needs to be solved. A high percentage of the companies believe they have found a solution, but it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist or isn’t as big of a market factor as they imagined. Solutions to genuine inefficiencies in supply chains or markets are potentially very, very valuable. As is the ability for that company to scale and protect its position.
Ask: Is this a problem that needs to be solved? Is it an ongoing systemic problem, or a short-term problem? If we solve this problem, will we create value within the ecosystem and will we be rewarded for doing so?
3. Bet on the jockey, not the horse.
We are people-first investors. We would invest in a great CEO with a less developed business model before we would invest in a more established business model with a less talented CEO. Early-stage CEOs are really one-of-a-kind. They’re a very unique breed. They’re the guys who will walk through walls, put themselves on the hook, and leave it all on the field to move their business forward.
4. Find great employees.
Gritty, smart, hungry employees. Somebody who can find their way to a solution without being given a roadmap, without being given every resource they need, and without a net. We have always looked for intelligence. We believe smart folks will have an outsized impact on the company over time, but grit and genuine ambition matter just as much.
5. Rep your city.
Look for local talent. Look for great engineers or great developers, that want to work on exciting projects in their city, who want to build, and be challenged. In cities with strong university systems where talent is being produced almost on a daily basis, we bring opportunities for that talent to stay home and develop in the early stage community on projects that the intellectually curious find very gratifying.
6. Look for shared services.
Eighty to ninety percent of new companies fail. Do they fail because they are bad ideas? Not always. Because you watch a company fail and then that idea gets started up by somebody else who executes it beautifully and now there are four of those companies out in the world and yours failed. Why did it fail? There are many factors, for example, when CEO’s are running around trying to raise capital and keep their investors happy, they can’t focus as much time on their product and their ideas. They are not as laser-focused on their tech and they are not as laser-focused on their model as they could be. That’s why we try to be an important part of the capital stack and its also why we pioneered the shared services model – to be the best friend of the entrepreneurs. We have teams and services in house (creative, sales, operations and more), ready to go, so founders can focus on building their businesses. This allows startups to punch above their weight and grow more quickly than they otherwise would.