In my How to Become CEO of Your Own Career eBook, I wrote the four major reasons I never earned an MBA. But I actually left out the truth: I just never, ever want to take another test again.
I have always loved learning, and I think education is the great equalizer that can lift people to new heights. But I also believe two important things:
- Learning does not need to be done within a classroom.
- The onus for learning is on the individual. You’ve got to want to get better.
I have always wanted to be the best at what I do. Perhaps it’s some psychological disorder caused by being sandwiched in the middle of five boys. Regardless, I learned early that to get ahead, you need to find an edge. And that edge is primarily found in observing what others have done, curating as much of those lessons as possible, digesting them and then absorbing and tweaking them into your own style.
I have benefited so much from the lessons I have learned from others that the moment the idea to start a new type of investment firm entered my mind, I knew learning was going to play a central role.
One of the biggest aspects that attracts me to angel investing is passing on knowledge to the next batch of great entrepreneurs. Business and startups have been a transformational force in my life, allowing me opportunities and experiences I never thought possible. During those years of hustle, hard work, failure and success, I picked up some lessons along the way. My hope in sharing those is that it may help an entrepreneur step over a proverbial landmine on the path to success.
But there are many successful blogs and publications focused on sharing tips with entrepreneurs. Our content will be slightly different for three reasons. For entrepreneurs, I have found that there is an overwhelming amount of inspiring content for burgeoning entrepreneurs – individuals with an excellent idea on the cusp of trying to turn that idea into a business. I love this type of content and I want to encourage every man, woman and child to read some of it because everyone has an entrepreneurial streak inside them and may be able to form some sort of business to supplement their lifestyle.
There is also a tremendous amount of content, most specifically in the form of the aforementioned MBA, that addresses business-minded folks who want to impact companies that have already hit scale. This too is valuable and necessary and my vision for York IE is to grow as many startups as possible to become businesses of the size and scale that need MBAs.
But the content you will find on York IE will not be directed toward either of those audiences. We’ll be speaking to our audience, which is entrepreneurs who have committed to a business, have a product, have some customers and are trying to figure out how to go from 10 customers to 1,000 and then from 1,000 to 1 million. I feel this is an underserved market and the ones who would benefit most from a lifeline because when you are that stage of a startup, you’re facing new challenges every day. There is no exact playbook, but there are certainly pragmatic execution realities that experience helps navigate.
The other audience we will be addressing is the angel investing community. I think for too long the angel investing community has been too narrow, primarily composed of institutional money or former startup founders or business executives living in a few pockets of the country. This exclusivity benefited the investors, as they had access to the best entrepreneurs and ideas. It hurt entrepreneurs because it forced them to move to these few locations in hopes of securing funding, most likely on unfavorable terms.
AngelList (Angel.co) was a huge step forward in democratizing this process and allowing accredited investors from all over the place to “get in on the action” so to speak. But I truly believe this pool should be wider. I think angel investing should be a portion of every accredited investor’s portfolio. I know angel investing is far riskier than other investment vehicles that is why that portion of the portfolio allocation must be determined by the investor. I would say only invest an amount you’re willing to lose. But I turned a $10K investment in a startup into a 60X return so it was worth the risk.
But there are risks, which is why educating first-time angel investors is so crucial. I feel that if we can grow the pool of qualified, educated angel investors around the world everyone wins. Suddenly, entrepreneurs who live outside traditional startup have new funding opportunities and doctors, lawyers, dentists and all other new angel investors get to be part of the rewarding practice of helping a business grow. This will benefit local economies and help raise communities.
This only works if the angel investors are educated on what types of businesses and which entrepreneurs are right to invest in for a true chance of success. It’s also imperative for those entrepreneurs to be educated on the best way to deploy that influx of capital to accelerate their business. Hence, this is why I find the learning content we’ll be sharing, written by our team, entrepreneurs, and angel investors, to be so critical in turning this vision into a reality.
But I should strongly note that the best way to learn is to do. Don’t let education get in the way of learning by doing.
We’re in the golden age of consuming information. Literally, some of the smartest and savviest business people are sharing their knowledge through books, blogs, podcasts, and videos. Read. Listen. Watch.
But then go out and build, market, sell. Feel the rush of success. Experience the motivation of failure. Talk to your customers. With all respect to Elton John, here’s my circle of life:
Read. Try. Fail. Learn. Iterate. Try. Succeed. Share.