A Q&A with Nathan Owen, normal associate at Grand Ventures LLC
Nathan Owen transitioned from software program growth to the enterprise capital world a 12 months in the past. Owen beforehand led Grand Rapids software program developer Blue Medora, which he co-founded in 2007 and left in October 2019, months previous to the sale of a big enterprise unit to California software program virtualization big VMWare Inc. After Blue Medora, Owen spent a 12 months because the chief working officer at Boston software program firm HYCU Inc., the place final 12 months he helped to lift an $87.5 million Sequence A capital spherical. As of March 2021, although, Owen has been firmly planted on the opposite aspect of the startup desk, becoming a member of enterprise capital agency Grand Ventures LLC as its normal associate. Owen just lately mentioned the transition from firm chief looking for funding to enterprise capital government.
Why make the transfer to Grand Ventures?
It’s actually about difficult myself. I’ve been an government in enterprise software program corporations for happening 20 years now in a single capability or one other, principally startups. I had an opportunity to lift $120 million (in enterprise capital) for 4 startups. I’ve all the time been intensely curious in regards to the enterprise of enterprise capital and what that appeared like, and for me it’s form of a complete new expertise to check out professionally and a technique to problem myself. I’m humbled on daily basis by the entire issues that I don’t know but, however I’m studying.
How did you join with Grand Ventures?
I’ve all the time been within the different aspect and have been keeping track of Michigan-based VC (companies) for some time. (Grand Ventures co-founder and managing associate) Tim Streit and I’ve identified one another and had been speaking for fairly some time, and in some unspecified time in the future we decided that I might be part of as a normal associate of the fund.
How does your background translate to enterprise capital?
In VC companies, two of the commonest profiles are banker sorts or individuals who have monetary backgrounds — bankers or funding bankers. The opposite profile you see are operators, and that’s the place I match: Ex-operators who’ve constructed and exited corporations. We do early-stage investing primarily, so we take care of lots of corporations which can be simply entering into income and the founding crew is commonly engineer sorts. Serving to these portfolio corporations determine how they’re going so as to add gross sales and advertising, spherical out their management, and supply help to serving to them scale the enterprise is type of the position I play throughout the fund.
What’s it like being on the opposite aspect of the desk throughout a pitch?
I needed to undergo a transition interval the place nearly each firm that pitched you is imperfect. It’s a good suggestion, however perhaps the crew isn’t there. Or it’s a extremely good crew, however simply an concept. Perhaps they’ve a pair clients, however not lots of traction. I needed to undergo a transition interval the place nothing appeared ok as a result of all the things was imperfect. Over time, I spotted that that’s the character of this enterprise. All early-stage corporations have lots of work to do to type of spherical out themselves, so I’ve gone by a transition of being extra forward-thinking. In all probability the large distinction of being an operator is evaluating the place you’re at the moment and specializing in metrics and traction. If you’re a enterprise capitalist, you spend not less than half of your time excited about what this firm may very well be down the highway if it had extra capital and employed the correct folks. You do way more future-casting.
What’s your recommendation for startups which can be in search of capital and traders?
There’s loads to be mentioned for individuals who do the early work to show what we name a product-market match. In different phrases, get that concept as far alongside as they will so that somebody truly desires to purchase it or buy it or use it. There have been intervals in enterprise capital the place that wasn’t all the time a requirement. You may give you an awesome concept, nevertheless it’s more and more shifted — typically to the founders’ profit — to get some proof that somebody on the market cares about this factor for them to pay for it.
Two, there’s an ecosystem that wasn’t there 10 years in the past in (enterprise) accelerators, which is a spot that provides a step earlier than enterprise capital. You’ll be able to take one thing that’s very early and they’re going to work with you. They’ll usher in a sequence of consultants that will help you with belongings you don’t know — lots of people don’t know a lot about finance, or they don’t know a lot about advertising — and you’ll incubate your corporation somewhat so you possibly can present somewhat little bit of income and present a market match. Then you definately’re extra ready to go speak to a enterprise capitalist and reply the questions enterprise capitalists need answered.