For the last several years I have invested in seed stage start ups. My whole life, I have been entrepreneurial. When you are an independent trader, you are really an entrepreneur. I just never scaled it like my friends at DRW Trading or JUMP Trading did, nor did I start a front end ISV like my friend did at Trading Technologies. My bad. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. Three worst words in entrepreneurship.
There are several reasons I didn’t. I certainly had the ideas. But ideas are nothing until you turn them into something and actually create value-earn a profit. Or at least generate revenue. Until you do that, it’s just an idea on the shelf.
The museum I am involved with is extremely entrepreneurial. The WW2 Museum President, Nic Mueller is fond of saying, “Try 100 things. If you fail at 98 of them so what? You will make things happen and the museum will be better for it.” The staff has taken it to heart and it motivates me.
Over the past two years, an idea has been marinating in my mind. Recently, I was able to connect with two other capable people to actually engage in it. A later blog post will describe in detail what we are doing, but until it’s settled and launching, I don’t want to explain it. It looks good right now, but I bet the founders of pets.com thought so too.
One thing I have noticed though, I am going through what all start up founders go through. Even though my business is going to be a niche business, we have the exact same problems. What to name it, how to structure it, what to charge for it, how to market it. We have to run through the same legal hoops. Our banker wants the same information. We are using US Trust ($BAK) because they are sponsors of Hyde Park Angels, the angel organization I co-founded in Chicago. We have to fill out all the forms, dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s.
It gives me new empathy for start up founders. Even if you are attacking a niche market, you go through the same motions a huge scalable company went through in the very beginning. We have the same excitement and anticipation. Will it work? We won’t know until we try.
I can honestly say I have been on both sides of the table now. Maybe all of us investors ought to earn some spurs by starting our own lemonade stand. I know a lot of techie people have. Independent Traders are a different breed entirely. We have a different internal mechanism that a lot of people don’t have. Most people don’t “get” us, or know how we tick. But by doing this little endeavor, I am learning a lot about the entrepreneurs that sit on the opposite side of the table from me.
They make mistakes, and so am I. It’s a part of it. We have already failed a little bit, but that’s okay. We learned, and we may have carved out a bigger niche for ourselves in the process. Only time will tell. Continued...