Tim Sullivan CEO of MicroVentures Speaks at The Skool Startup Bootcamp
The Skool Startup Bootcamp, founded by Jose Caballer, is a two-day educational program that brings leaders from the local-to-national tech space to share advice and stories about building a business, and offers a series of workshops to fine-tune ones’ business and technical skills in web and app development. The program kicked off Friday at Arizona State University with speaker Tim Sullivan, CEO and principal of MicroVentures.
Sullivan is the former President of Sharespost Financial Corporation and over the past two years has transacted with over 30 private issuers, representing over $1B in transactions, resulting in over $30mm in revenue to Sharespost.
Previously, Sullivan held leadership roles at Susquehanna Financial Group, Oracle, and IBM. Throughout Sullivan’s career, he has managed more than $3B worth of private equity transactions and enjoys a consistent track record of surpassing expectations.
Sullivan’s talk focused on the importance of team synergy when an angel is deciding whether to invest.
What many startups may not know, or consciously understand, is that while a company might show growth and have a good product, angels do in fact look at team genetics. Sullivan makes a point to identify the team players, evaluates how they collaborate and if they are easy to work with and “Are they just good people?” After all the data points, sometimes it can come down to listening to the gut, he explains.
“Angel investors want to work with good people,” he said. “If you are going to be effective, you need to listen to your team. [As an investor, I also want to see] if the team is collaborating… and listening to each other and their mentors.”
A few red flags for Sullivan include founders paying themselves large monthly salaries instead of using money conservatively and putting it back into the company. “The ability to manage cash effectively is important, and I want to see the members putting cash back into the company. [Why?] Because the more you pay people the longer it will take the company to break even.”
Another red flag is a founder that acts like a know-it-all, “I think a lot of entrepreneurs believe they are better than others in the market, and that’s not true.”
In the end, “investors care about a return,” and in order to get funding, “more startups are having to bootstrap, execute and show growth and traction before people get involved.” Thus why team synergy is critical in order to go through the successes and struggles.
One of the unique components of The Skool Startup Bootcamp was the inclusion of young entrepreneurs. From elementary to junior high, kids were invited to the camp, pitch their ideas and work on their companies right along side of local CEOs and startups; a great example of truly utilizing the power of the community to fuel our ecosystem.
One such attendee was an example of “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Young entrepreneur Sky, son of local serial entrepreneur Brad Robertson, asked his dad to attend the camp because he wanted to learn more, develop his company and join in the pitch competition. “I look up to my dad as a mentor,” Sky said.
After Sullivan’s talk, I asked Sky to relay the advice he planned to use for building his company, “Listen to people helping you… you need to make sure the ‘money people’ understand your product… you need to get people to work for you and work together,” he said.
A special moment came when Caballer interviewed Sky to learn more about his company, Kidicate-an online video review of mobile apps for kids by kids. The site would have a video component where a panel of kids will be filmed reviewing the app while playing the game, providing real-time authentic reactions. As the app receives more positive reviews, the app will move up to the top of the list on the site, thus receiving more opportunities for downloads. “It’s like Rotten Tomatoes for mobile apps,” Sky said.
Caballer then offered to use Sky’s company as the example in the next workshop with the focus of “prioritizing goals and functionality”, where every entrepreneur and expert in the room would provide suggestions to help build his company.
I’ve seen kids excited about getting a mobile device or XBox, but this kid about jumped out of his skin about the opportunity.
Caballer asked “How do you feel about everyone in the room helping you with Kidicate?
Sky nods, smiles and says, “There is some necessary work to get done.”
The Startup Bootcamp continues today with speaker Lucian Spataro, Jr. Ph.D., as well as panel discussions from local CEOs, incubators and experts in the tech space (including Team AZTB) to educate attendees on topics such as raising capital, building a team, addressing the media, developing the pitch, and growing at a steady pace. Learn more about future bootcamps from The Skool Rocks.