Great Company Founders Like the Big Picture AND the Little Problems
When Eric Paley met the founders of SeatGeek, the online ticketing agency, he noticed immediately how they were intimately engaged in solving the small problems of their business.
Eric Paley is a Managing Partner at Founder Collective, an early stage fund started by a team of entrepreneurs that launched companies and led them through successful exits. These founders are focused on helping the next generation of great entrepreneurs build important and lasting businesses. Previously, Eric was the CEO and a co-founder of Brontes, which was acquired in 2006 by 3M.
Eric Paley: I met with Jack and Russ for the first time at a coffee shop. I had been informed a little bit about what they were doing and their pitch at the time. They were incredibly focused on ticket pricing, which has actually become a very important thing through the history of the company. They were actually building data science models around the pricing to help consumers understand when was the right time to buy tickets. And in the early days that was a big value add of what SeatGeek offered. They've actually brought a lot of their pricing insights to other parts of the product over time, which is also very exciting. What got me excited about Jack and Russ was how, we use this term, are they all over it? When you start talking to founders about their business and you start pushing on what are the hard parts of the business, what are the tough things that are going to make it so that their business might not make it, might not survive? I like that conversation because it tells me a lot about the founder. Some founders just don't want to deal with any of that stuff. They kind of like their hands; they want to talk about the big picture. They don't want to engage the problems. The really great founders in my mind love engaging the problems. It's all they think about. They're up all night engaging the problems. Maybe there's a little part of them that feels a little defensive about it, but most of them love to engage a conversation about the hard parts because what they really love is talking to somebody who wants to talk to them about how to solve the hard parts of their business. That's what gets them excited because that's what they spend everyday thinking about.
The founders who like to waive their hands they don't want to think about it, they don't spend their days solving the hard parts. Usually they never solve the hard parts. When I met Jack all he wanted to talk about was the hard parts. We talked about his conversion funnel. We talked about his marketing. We talked about how difficult it was to have people want to purchase tickets on his site and then have to go out to external vendors to complete the sale and why that was interrupting, in many cases, the purchase and conversion of the customer. All those guys wanted to talk about at the beginning was the hard parts of their business, which is what we look for and gets us incredibly excited.
Founding a successful company inevitably requires big-picture vision. You've got to know where an industry is currently — and where it's going. Eric Paley, Managing Partner at Founder Collective, an early stage funding organization for entrepreneurs, has seen a lot of companies rise and fall — and he's seen the many founders that led these organization. He says it's rare to find founders who are equally passionate about solving the small problems as they are about looking at the big picture. So when you do, you know it's someone special.
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