"A little bit of dysfunction creates a little bit of innovation because it frees you"
During last month's fireside chat with Fred Schaufeld, of SWaN & Legend Venture Partners, he opened up about the formative years of his entrepreneurial journey. He shared the impact of losing a father at age of 20 and gaining the courage to take on new risks - including running for election as Lehigh University's concert chair position and hosting some of the biggest performing acts such as The Allman Brothers Band, Journey and Cheap Trick. Being concert chair was the opportunity that gave him business experience and it continues to influence the decisions he makes today:
"We look for things that people are passionate about - if people are passionate about what you have, and you give them a good product, the risk goes down".
"There is no shame in failure, but you don't have to go for it"
Reflecting on investing in companies in DC, New York, and Palo Alto, Fred commented on the advantages of starting a company in the DC region:
"DC is a great town because it's a big little town... it makes it easy to connect."
Fred noted that every major organization has a node in DC, thus providing opportunities for startups in any industry. The quality and quantity of the education system surrounding the district, he said, is also an important reason for the high level of talent in the DCbusiness community.
"Everything takes longer than you expect, and everything costs more than you expect"
As an investor, Fred provided insight into the characteristics that he has observed from successful companies, highlighting the importance of focus. Organizations that focus on their core business but pivot when necessary often see more success than the firms seeking to reach into too many markets.
Drawing from SWaN & Legends’ investment in Anonymous Content, Fred also emphasized the importance of not allowing ego to keep you from the right opportunities:
"Ego kills businesses because you make decisions for bad reasons... the leaders in Hollywood all started in the mail room.”
He left the audience with great advice that came from his parents, to always be gracious:
"It costs nothing to be nice".
Watch the full fireside chat by Fred Schaufeld, of SWaN & Legend Venture Partners at Startup Grind, Washington DC: