'Be true to who you are'
Kellogg alumni encourage students to take the long view in their careers and in life By Brady Gervais
5/18/2011 - When students take their post-graduation journeys, they can go one of two ways. They can throw caution to the wind and pursue the entrepreneurial route, or they can do what Carter Cast ’92 did. He built experience and skills before advancing to smaller companies and eventually starting a business.
“Be true to who you are,” said Cast, former CEO of Walmart.com and the current chairman of Hayneedle Inc.
Carter and Matt McCall ’91, partner at New World Ventures and co-founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson Portage Venture Partners, shared their perspectives on entrepreneurship and venture capital with Kellogg students on May 3. The Heizer Center for Private Equity and Venture Capital sponsored the well-attended event, themed “Inside the Startup: Views from the Trenches and the Heavens.”
Among their words of wisdom:
Stay true to yourself and your values.
Whatever path you choose, there will be many opportunities, McCall assured students.
“But you have to do it because you want to change the world,” McCall said. ”When it’s about making the money, bad things happen, self-crises occur, and you don’t end up where you need to be.”
Carter revealed that at one point he was uncertain what to believe in and faced a moral crisis. “I’m fine now, but I went through hell,” Cast added. “And I don’t want to go back there.”
Don’t be afraid to fail.
Students should expect to fail sometime during the next 10 years, McCall warned. How they respond, he said, will define who they are. Failure should be viewed as an opportunity to regain freedom, start over and learn.
“Failure is the best thing that can happen to you,” McCall said.
There’s no magic time to start a business.
There’s no right age or amount of experience needed to start a business. Students will know they’re ready when “the idea won’t go away,” Carter said. He advised doing a gap analysis to zero in on what skills and abilities are needed and then to figure out how to close the gap.
From the venture capitalist’s point of view, McCall said he knows a person is ready to be an entrepreneur when he or she is surprised the business doesn’t exist, thinks it should and knows it will. The passion is in the word “will,” he said.