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The Best Startup Advice I've Ever Gotten

2 min read
“Think bigger”
George Zachary, General Partner, Charles River Ventures (early investor in Twitter & Yammer)

I could leave it at that. It’s succinct. Concise. Even, world changing.

But it doesn’t sound inspiring. That is, unless you understand the story behind this advice.

It was June 21, 2011. My time at A+E Television was becoming increasingly grudgingly after we had sold ParentsClick to them in 2008 (techincally Lifetime TV, but they merged with A+E in 2010). My friend Paul Stamatiou had forwarded me an email that afternoon: George is looking for an EIR (entrepreneur-in-residence) to join his team. OMG! This was exactly what I wanted to do next. I was ready to start another company!

I remember the day clearly: it was a typical, 70 degree sunny day down in the valley. I had my favorite J.Crew blazer and jeans on, and a fresh, new checkered shirt. George was running 30 min late because of multiple hard drive failures at his house. It was true, no excuse, he literally brought in a handful of drives to our meetings. We instantly connected: nerd-to-nerd, talking about hard drives and then diving into my Drupal experience. Our meeting was excellent.

Later that week, George followed up. He said he and his team wanted to dive deeper. I met his partners, Saar and Max, on July 17, 2011. I had great meetings, one-on-one with each. I left ecstatic.

That next week, on July 24, 2011, I received an email from George. My heart skipped a beat. George writes:

[…] Everyone liked you quite a bit. At the same time, we didn’t sense you had the gut level excitement to move ahead. […] We felt you didn’t radiate excitement. I want to stay in contact with you because I know you are going to do something great.”


I talked with George further. And then it came out.

“Think bigger”

I had shared with them my vision for QR codes, a startup called Aniter (hint: retina spelled backwards), a time when QR codes hadn’t taken off. And some might say, they still haven’t really taken off, and even, might not ever take off.

George was right. His team was right.

I not only needed to think bigger, I needed to radiate excitement.

Fast forward almost 2 years.

I’m in Detroit. I’m leading the startup renaissance to establish a vibrant startup community in the Midwest. Detroit Venture Partners has made nearly 20 investments. My family and friends call me overly ecstatic and optimistic about Detroit. A handful of fellow VCs have called me the fastest growing VC in the midwest. I’m not only trying to build a top startup community in the nation, I’m helping to rebuild one of the greatest cities in the world.

George, you’d be proud. I’m thinking bigger. Much bigger. I’m radiating excitement. I’m exuberayting my new found passion. This encounter was a pivotal time in my life and you, George, were an extremely wise mentor. I look forward to the day that we might co-invest in the same startup and that I may soak up more of your insight.

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