Stanford Offer is a Good Thing

Paul Jones, co-chair of Venture Best, the venture capital practice group at Michael Best, has been selected as a regular contributor of OnRamp Labs, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog covering start-ups and other Wisconsin technology news. Paul’s most recently contributed piece, “Stanford Offer is a Good Thing” can be found under their Business Tab in the Business Blog section: Click here to view his latest blog.

A short excerpt can be found below:

“So the good folks at Stanford University’s business school want to lend a hand to the ‘underserved’ folks in flyover country.

Good for them — and us.

Even way back when I was in school — we are talking late 70s to mid 80s — the attraction of Stanford was, at least in part, that it was ‘there.’ And I was ‘here.’ A ticket to Stanford was generally thought of as a one-way ticket: ‘Go west, young man,’ Horace Greeley advised; and don’t come back, he implied.

As it turns out, I did not go to Stanford, and instead got my MBA and JD closer to home, in Chicago. But my first post-education stop was in Silicon Valley, and it was a great move that I never regretted.

Employee Turnover: A Cloud with a Silver Lining

Paul Jones, co-chair of Venture Best, the venture capital practice group at Michael Best, has been selected as a regular contributor of OnRamp Labs, the newest blog addition to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covering start-ups and other Wisconsin technology news.

Paul’s most recent contributed piece “Employee Turnover:  A Cloud with a Silver Lining” can be found under their Business Tab in the Business Blog section. Click here to view his latest blog.

Here is a short excerpt: “In a recent Washington Post commentary, DC-area entrepreneurJoel Holland cites four reasons he believes account for the recent emergence of the nation’s capital as a modest but real center of startup-driven innovation and venture investing. One reason he cites is a business and social culture that – in sharp contrast with Silicon Valley, he notes – supports more stable employment relationships. Holland posits that lower employee churn is something that gives DC-area innovators a competitive advantage over their Silicon Valley counterparts.

I beg to differ.”

Click here to read more of Paul Jones’ OnRamp Labs blog post located under the Business tab of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s website, www.jsonline.com.

(Don’t) Go West, Young Entrepreneur

By: Paul A. Jones

After launching my career in and around the high impact entrepreneurship space and venture capital in Silicon Valley in 1985, I moved on to North Carolina in 1990.  After an .. exhilarating? … run as a venture capital investor (fund class of 1999 which, if you know the history of the business, is more than enough said) I proved to myself, at least, that sometimes you can just go home.  In my case, home was Neenah, Wisconsin.

My career is still all about high impact entrepreneurship and investing: my experiences over the last 10 years demonstrate that high impact entrepreneurship is doable in Wisconsin.  More than that, it has, I think, a bright future.  But … and this is where I tend to get into trouble … let’s not kid ourselves.  Wisconsin’s high impact entrepreneurs, circa 2014 and for some indeterminate time to come, as a rule (there are exceptions, but mostly of a kind that prove the rule) face more and more daunting challenges than their peers in Silicon Valley.  Or even New York or Austin, for that matter; but let’s be straight about it.  Silicon Valley is the gold standard for high impact entrepreneur environments.

EntrepEventJune2014#1This week, at the 2014 Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, I was on a panel talking about common mistakes entrepreneurs make.  And I said something, publicly, that I have said privately before.  To wit that if a high impact entrepreneur’s only objective is to raise the most venture capital, as fast as possible, at the highest price, that entrepreneur should move to Silicon Valley.

Being that the setting was, as mentioned, the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference (and kudos to the Wisconsin Technology Council for another great event), my declaration was not particularly embraced by the crowd.  But it is what it is.  Silicon Valley is to the high risk entrepreneurship and investing world what Rome was to the Roman Empire.  It is where pretty much all of the significant roads lead.  It is where about one half of all the venture capital in the country is invested (that would be two orders of magnitude more venture capital than has historically been invested in Wisconsin).  The Silicon Valley entrepreneur/venture capital eco-system is by far the  broadest and deepest in the world.  That is not a boast, that is just a fact.

But if Silicon Valley is the center of the technology-driven entrepreneurship and investing universe it is no more the only place in that universe than Rome was the only place that mattered in the days of the Empire.  Entrepreneurs can and do build great companies in places like Wisconsin.  They do it because raising the most money at the best price as fast as possible is not their only objective.  They do it because while it might be easier to build a startup bigger, better and faster in Silicon Valley, they want to do it somewhere else – like Wisconsin.  And, frankly, I applaud them for it.  Selfishly, if there were not entrepreneurs and risk capital investors who wanted to do their thing in Wisconsin even if it might be harder to do here than there, well, I would not have anything, career-wise, to do here.  And I like it here, too.

So if you are one of “us,” that is one of those folks in the high impact entrepreneurship and investing space that calls Wisconsin home, three cheers.  But do it with your eyes open.  You can get financed in Wisconsin.  You can build winning high growth/risk teams in Wisconsin.  You can find savvy startup lawyers, accountants, advisers, mentors and partners in Wisconsin.  But it will likely take a little more time WinterTreesand effort than it would in Silicon Valley.  And you will most likely have to compromise a bit more on your financing, growth and exit expectations.  Good for you.  You gotta love our winters.

 

Paul Jones Conversation With Eric Wagner in Forbes

In late 2012, Paul Jones, Co-Chair of Michael Best’s Venture Best team, spoke with Eric Wagner, a serial entrepreneur, regular blog contributor at Forbes.com, and founder of Mightywisemedia. The discussion focused on ideas that high impact entrepreneurs can use to attract venture capital dollars.  Recently, Eric summarized the conversation and Paul’s ideas on his Forbes blog 12 Tips on Raising Venture Capital for Your Startup.