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Advice for Prospective Young Entrepreneurs with Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital and Duke Basketball

For anyone considering a move from their current career into the extremely exciting world of venture capitalism, I encourage you full-heartedly. While this business isn’t for everyone, if you are feeling the pull, if you have a natural attraction to finance, decision-making, and risk, then you are sure to find a home in venture capitalism. There is nothing more rewarding than being a successful young entrepreneur with the world as his oyster. It won’t all be champagne and models, though, that only comes after hours and hours of hard work and dedication. Venture capitalism is a competitive and cut throat, dog-eat-dog world, which only makes the payoff all the more fulfilling when you finally achieve your goals in this field. Anyone can become the head of a company after years and years of work, grey in their hair and belly behind their belt, but only a few can bring a company from absolutely nothing up to the big leagues. Only a few can be talented enough, and lucky enough, to succeed as a young entrepreneur.

So how can you make sure you are one of those lucky few? Well, unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done for the luck side of it all…well, that’s not exactly true. Here’s the first bit of wisdom I can apart on you:

Place Yourself in the Right Place at the Right Time

While, yes, a big part of this is unpredictable, and therefore, nearly impossible to plan for, some of being in the right place at the right time is simply being aware of the surroundings and happenings around you. Remember, you are the master of your own fate and destiny. Pay attention to the local news and media and place yourself in favorable situations where you may be able to meet someone who can help you advance your career. Timing is everything and you must always be aware of your timing because you’ll wear it on your face. If you are late, or your timing is behind, you are likely to also be frazzled and unprepared, and it will show on your face whether you know it or not. If you can keep your timing in your own control, you’ll be more comfortable and at ease, which, again, will show on your face. Control your time, and you’ll be able to more easily find yourself in the right place, at the right time, making the right connection to get you where you want to go.

But timing is only one component of the young entrepreneur that you must learn to master. At its bones, the world of venture capitalism is a people business. Yes, it is less of a people business than most other businesses, because of its strong dependence on math and finance, but when you focus on the aspects of venture capitalism that are most important to one’s success, you see that they are the same exact aspects that one must focus on for success in any customer service position. The most logical, rational, math-talented person can still fail in this business if they don’t have the capacity to understand and converse generatively with others in the business. 

Below are the three things that stand out to me most when thinking about simple, successful tactics for everyday use in the world of venture capitalism. I believe that the best way to conduct oneself is the way that comes naturally, and so the way to ensure one’s conduct is always appropriate is to maintain a professional but pleasant attitude at all times. Keep these three in mind to help maintain that successful attitude. 

Be Knowledgeable 

I specifically say knowledgeable here instead of “smart” or “intelligent” because both of those words imply a broad understanding over a diverse range of topics. Sure, that’s always going to be helpful, but it’s more important for you, in each of your corporate pursuits, to focus on why you are having each business interaction you are having, and what you wish to gain from that interaction. The best person you can be whenever you are in a professional setting conducting business is the person who can answer every question about your business that a potential partner, investor, or even competitor, may have. Be wary of walking the line between confident and cocky and you should knock it out of the park. 

Be Likeable

Of course, you should always strive to be yourself and present a genuine product with not only how you showcase your business, but also with how you showcase yourself; honesty always shines through when it is presented well with a business. However, the same can also be said inversely for dishonesty, so be cautious of pushing genuinity that will inevitably come out forced and ungenuine, despite your greatest efforts. Being likeable simply means adding a little extra effort to your already outstanding and likeable personality. Being likeable just means smiling a little more and a little wider, it means taking the time to ask others how their day is going and how they are feeling, it means remembering something unique about someone and then bringing it up with them the next time you meet up. Don’t be superfluous or insincere, but rather thoughtful and affable. Strive to be the person that everyone loves to see coming their way. 

Be Concise

In the fast-paced world of big business everyone’s time is valuable, from the top to the bottom, the receptionist to the CEO. Waste anyone’s time and be ready to face the consequences of being so unprepared and unprofessional. If you can, practice your big meetings before you have them. Hopefully, you’ll catch any mistakes that you may make, as well as build your confidence by knowing exactly what you are going to say when the time comes. When your moment does come, step up and be direct with your intentions. Nothing is more embarrassing for both parties than someone having to repeatedly say “what” or ask for clarification of what’s being said. Be sure of yourself and speak from the back of your throat and you’ll have them nodding their head and agreeing with you before you know it. 

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