“Unstable Times Create Incredible Opportunities”

November 23rd, 2010 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

Recently, I attended New York Entrepreneur Week, which consisted of panels and activities with the underlying message of unstable times creating incredible opportunities. Many of the speakers stressed the importance of entrepreneurs, describing them as “relentless…the kid who never fit in with a specific group…[and]did what they wanted to do.” The beauty of entrepreunership is the passion driven beyond monetary success. Entrepreneurs advised attendees to persist when others would quit, never be afraid to ask for help and to leverage one another–an entrepreuner’s greatest asset is his or her network. A remark by Gary Whitehill sums up the conference: “dream big, worry small, work hard, network.”

To give attendees a perspective of the full spectrum of entrepreunship, a panel of VCs, including our very own Jay Levy, debated venture capital, angel, and seed investing.. Jay provided the audience with advice, laughs, and candid honesty. To show the relevance of entrepreneurial endeavors today, Panelist Ross Goldstein, co-founder and managing director of DFJ Gotham compared the VC community of 1996 to the present VC community.

In 1996, Ross said, there were probably two companies in NYC who would invest in early stage companies—compared with dozen’s today, all vying for early stage companies with great potential.

In addition to market trends, the VCs discussed how entrepreneurs must have passion if they want to be successful. Should you invest in the technology or the people? Brad Harrison, founder of Brad Harrison Ventures, said he invests in people because they are the only constant. Technology will evolve, but a quality person will have the ability to attract other great talent and help the business thrive.

Jay Levy stressed the importance of the team and the initial meeting. “It’s hard to get to know someone in 10 minutes, but you can know if you don’t like them,” he said, to an uproar of laughter.

A good working relationship between the venture capitalists and the entrepreneurs, he said, is like entering a marriage. An entrepreneur should research a VC just as a VC would research a potential business. Just because the VC wants to sign a check does not mean they are a good fit. Look at investors as not just having capital, but as a resource.

Another piece of wisdom was a common issue between VCs and entrepreneurs: the exit strategy. The entrepreneur and the VC must be on the same page in terms of exits. An offer to an entrepreneur can be life-changing money, but not a good exit for a fund. On the investment side, angels are more professional in a category between friends & family and venture cap. There are two types: super angels–who were successful entrepreneurs–and regular angels, both of whom can add tremendous value. The parting piece of advice from the panelists for entrepreneurs was: you do not need an answer for every question when meeting with investors, but, rather, you should approach the initial conversation as the beginning of a relationship.

Jeremy Heiman, of and, visited the topic of social entrepreneurs, social innovation and profit for a purpose. He defined the term “movement entrepreneurs” as those who “create new sources of power by aggregating and mobilizing the voices of many.” Heiman, who successfully led social movements such as, political action for Australia and, spoke about the power an entrepreneur has to use the online sphere to create offline action

While many VCs or other members of the start-up community might search for entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley or NYC, this panel discussed the endless opportunities in Africa. By investing in developing nations, success can be measured not only by return on investment but also by stimulating an emerging economy in a socially conscious way. Summer Rayne Oakes’s company Source4Style is a great bridge between fashion and conscious capitalism. Source4Style helps “make sustainable design possible” by using products from forest resources. Source4Style serves as a destination for designers and retailers to search for sustainable services and materials from a variety of global suppliers.

Another inspiring entrepreneur, Dan Lack, provided a fabulous PowerPoint-free speech. “I don’t want work, I want a life!” He shared his contagious passion with the crowd forcing everyone to care about each other and strive to help. He reinforced the benefits of being persistent but resourceful. While you should try to say yes, he said, you also need to know when to say no.

You can learn more about the panels and speakers at

Great businesses & projects to check out:


About Jay Levy

Jay Levy

Jay Levy is a co-founder and principal of Zelkova Ventures. Jay focuses most of his time in working with the current portfolio company and looking at new investments in the software-as-a-service, internet media and green tech space. More »


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