Dr. Norris Krueger talks to everyone, especially people on the “elevator.” He believes networking is key when growing a business.
What’s your story?
I’m a recovering Caltech physics major and tech entrepreneur, who turned into a leading entrepreneurship academic. I’m now an ecosystem builder and experiential educator. I spent the last 15 years in glorious Boise, Idaho while getting to travel and speak at various events across Idaho. I’m a senior subject matter expert for OECD and EU on entrepreneurial learning and on entrepreneurial ecosystems.
What is your involvement with Investment?
Today, I’m primarily coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs but I started out with an investment banker focus on portfolio strategy and forecasting.
How did that come about?
I went to grad school to study forecasting and got recruited by Ohio State’s chair in entrepreneurship, the legendary Al Shapero. I interned with a local VC firm. Soon I was immersed in a semiconductor production equipment startup, helping my technical cofounder by revising his 200 page business plan [back when business plans were a thing] to something readable. That landed a key angel investor. I kept critiquing business plans with a certain knack of finding the fatal flaw. I returned to academe, building an entrepreneurship program that won 6 national and 2 global best practice awards. Now I help entrepreneurs to grow.
What are some of the key things you have learnt about Investing?
The need to educate both sides. I am not terribly amazed when entrepreneurs simply do not understand how to purse money (and when) but I am often amazed by veteran investors who also do not understand the process as well as they should. Moreover, many other key players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem are also under- and ill-informed. Simply educating everyone on what makes entrepreneurial investment work for all concerned, is something that we all need to do more of.
What mistakes do you see less experienced investors making?
“Never confuse brains with a bull market.” Something I learned in equity markets applies equally here. A successful investment need not mean I’m terribly smart. I see veteran investors always rethinking their methods. In short, we don’t learn from our mistakes and we don’t learn from our successes – unless we work at it!
Similarly, the data on angels in North America suggests that it is all too easy to get hung up on trying for that 10X hit. Pushing entrepreneurs too hard is counterproductive. On the other hand, there is no shortage of US angels who seem to be playing at angel investment. There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of fun but you owe it to your investees to be serious.
What mistakes do you see Entrepreneurs making?
Biggest mistake, not bootstrapping. Getting outside equity may be sexy and growth accelerating but was it worth giving up equity early? (Inc. magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest growing firms always shows that almost all of them are bootstrapped.) Number two, not understanding that once you take someone else’s money, it’s not really your company any more. A close number three, why don’t entrepreneurs do their homework on the people helping them, whether mentors or investors?
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Never settle for just one piece of advice? If I did pick one: “Always talk to people on elevators.” It’s not a cliche, you really can learn from everyone and you never know who they know. It’s no longer “6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon”, it’s more like 3.
What advice would you give to those seeking funding?
DO YOUR HOMEWORK! On your customers. On your industry. On your mentors. On your investors.
Who inspires you?
The resilient. I’m persistent but am I just stubborn? I admire anyone I can learn from… and that’s pretty much everyone.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Changes daily! I follow many science/tech blogs and something incredible pops up almost daily. I read a great deal of science fiction in my younger days; now I’m living IN those stories. If I had to pick one: LIGO. LIGO is the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory… The people who discovered/proved the existence of gravity waves. This is beyond awesome.
What business book do you recommend the most?
The one I write! Seriously, though, Peter Drucker’s 1993 Innovation and Entrepreneurship is one I give people. It’s a good place to start. Brad Feld’s 2012 Startup Communities is my other go-to gift book. But I’d also recommend the websites out there that curate the best stuff: the Kauffman Foundation’s entrepreneurship.org, Stanford’s EdCorner (videos galore), Alex Osterwalder’s Strategyzer.com.
Shameless plug for your business/organisation:
Nobody knows more about how to grow entrepreneurs, whether it’s by growing the entrepreneurial mindset through deep experiential learning or whether by growing a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s bottom-up and entrepreneur-led. There are plenty of people who know as much, though and, yes, some do know more; but many are my friends and I know almost all of them.. And I keep meeting new ones on the elevator!
P.S. I am also working with the incredible Joe Bonocore (4 Silicon Valley startups, 4 significant exits) and I am learning so much from him. Check him out on LinkedIn!
How can people connect with you?
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]
Phone/WhatsApp/WeChat: +1 208 440 3747
My blog: http://bit.ly/NKblog2a
My presentations: http://bit.ly/NKpres
This article is part of the World Business Angel Forum media partnership with AsianEntrepreneur.org
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