This week’s guest, Mark Moe, is the Vice President of Global Business Development at GSV Capital (a.k.a. GSV Labs), an accelerator program most known for their 72,000 square foot campus at the epicenter of Silicon Valley.
For the past twenty plus years, Mark has developed his understanding of business as an attorney, investment banker, and an advisor for countless startups. He was a managing director at Cherry Tree Investment Bank and a partner at Think Equity Partners. Basically, Mark has developed into an expert on startups. Tune in as he talks about becoming successful with a focus on startups.
Bobby: What is the greatest moment in from your professional career? Take us to that moment.
Mark Moe: I don’t know if I have ever had a greatest moment. But what I enjoy doing, is helping others. So in business, every time I can help someone achieve one of their goals, that’s a great feeling for me. So, when I was an investment banker, when I got a deal done, helped someone raise capital, that was extremely rewarding.
I have been a mentor for the past several years. I am a mentor at the Minnesota Cup, the largest startup competition in Minnesota. I was recently recognized as the mentor of the year, which was a great feeling for me to get acknowledged for my efforts.
Bobby: I can definitely understand that. So, what has been the hardest moment in your career?
Mark Moe: That’s an everyday occurrence. But, there was one clear low point in my own career. We started a company and sold it. The low point came about a year and a half after selling it when I got let go from that same company. The markets went into a tailspin and they decided they no longer needed my services.
That was hard for me. It put me on my heels for a bit and took me a while to come back from. I had to feel sorry for myself and lick my wounds. But what I learned from that is that it never does you good to sit around and feel sorry for yourself. You have to get back in the game as soon as possible.
But I got back up and started two new businesses that I always thought would be interesting. And one of them, out in California has been doing alright. It’s called GSV Labs, an innovation center that helps startups grow, international organizations connect with Silicon Valley, and corporations with growth initiatives.
Bobby: Very interesting. Since you have spent so much time with startups and as a startup mentor, what do you believe makes a good startup?
Mark Moe: Well, part of being a good startup is becoming a mid-size company. So you don’t want to be a startup forever, it’s about how do you scale your business. I think the really good startups always know why they’re doing what they do.
I call this the “why”. Why do you exist? Why should anyone actually care you are doing this project? If the company can easily articulate the pain-point they see in the marketplace and the product they will use to address that very pain-point, then I know they are onto something. If they cannot articulate the pain-point, then I know they are just taking on a project. The good entrepreneurs are really good at seeing problems in the marketplace that they know how to provide solutions to.
Bobby: Very interesting. Next question: if you could have a do-over in your early twenties what would it be?
Mark Moe: I followed a path that I wanted to follow, but one of the things I would’ve not been so rash about was getting out of the law practice so quickly. I probably needed another year or two of learning within that to make it applicable in my later career. Law was great training but frankly a couple more years of being exposed to that side of the business world would’ve been beneficial to me.
And I left law because I really didn’t like it. This may sound like a contradiction, but sometimes you have to power through and find the value in what you are doing rather than look to do something else. It was an instance of being younger and less patient and I should’ve followed through on the learning experience.
Bobby: Now, I probably shouldn’t even ask you this next question then, because you probably don’t have many. If you died tomorrow, what would be your single biggest regret?
Mark Moe: So, my biggest regret up to this point is not going to Africa. I think the need and opportunity in Africa is outstanding. I have had Africa on my heart for a longtime but haven’t been able to follow through to getting there and forming relationships there. That’s a regret.
Bobby: Okay, thanks for sharing. Then what is one action that listeners can focus on this week to improve as a person or become more successful? Give us a life-hack.
Mark Moe: The thing that has always been effective for me is mapping out how I want to spend my day. When I am least efficient is when I do not know beforehand how I wish to spend my day. I am much more efficient and effective when I map out the day ahead of me.
The way I do that is the night before, write out what I want to get accomplished the next day and prioritize it. It isn’t original but forces you to think strategically about how you will attack your next day. So often, we get up in the morning and we just start to muddle through the day. You will go through your emails, get distracted and get dragged into some rabbit hole; before you know it, it will be noon.
So, with mapping out your day the night before, you are able to know what you are doing right when you wakeup. You should know what you are supposed to be doing at least three or four hours into the day. You don’t have to plan out the entire day, but getting the first half of your day planned and started will make the rest of your day run effectively.
Bobby: Great advice. Now I’m going to bring up two things that you told me a couple weeks ago that I found interesting. You mentioned that I have to pursue my mission. This is an easy thing to say, but what did you actually mean by this?
Mark Moe: So often, particularly when you go work for someone else, they dictate what your day will look like and what your role is. I think that for you, an entrepreneur, and others, pursuing your mission is knowing why you are doing what you do. Everything in your life should have that mission as its cornerstone.
And if that’s your foundation for what you’re doing, in my estimation, you will be doing something you are passionate about. You will be more successful in your endeavors versus someone who is chasing just money. It’s going to be hard to keep passion up if all you’re pursuing is money. When you have a different, purposeful mission, you will be aligned, have energy, and sustainable interest. Those are the ingredients to true success.
Bobby: Okay, that makes sense. Then one other thing you said to me that stuck with me. You said don’t let greed get in the way of accomplishment.
Mark Moe: Yes, this kind of goes back to the mission statement. I sit down with entrepreneurs all the time who tell me here’s my exit plan before even having a business. My response to that is always, “if you are already thinking about the end game without having a beginning to the game mapped out, your ending is going to be very disappointing.”
You can’t think about the greed on the backend. You have to build a business thinking about creating a great business. And if you can do this, the outcome will take care of itself. If you have a mission behind what you’re doing, and you build the best possible business around that mission, then the outcome will be what it will be.
Bobby: I want to respect your time, but I have one more question. For startups, do you have any tips on what they should focus on?
Mark Moe: Yeah, so there are different stages to the answer. So at the infancy of any startup, it’s all about being intellectually honest with yourself about whether or not you are solving a pain point. The second piece is to know who actually cares about the pain point. You must identify if those who care about the pain point will be willing to pay enough money for your solution.
The other big piece of starting and growing a great business is surrounding yourself with great people. This takes a leader who has a certain kind of humility to hire a person who is better than him or herself. Everybody says they want to hire someone better, but this is usually not the case. Real leaders understand that they must focus on acquiring those who will make the entire team stronger, while commonly forgetting their own egos.
Bobby: Well great, thanks for sharing. I will let you get on your way. Thank you so much for joining us today Mark.
Some reminders from this podcast:
1. As Mark learned the hard way, it does no good to sit around and feel sorry for yourself after something bad happens in your life. You have to get back in the game as soon as possible; don’t just lick your wounds.
2. Find and live out your mission, your purpose. This mission should be at the foundation of everything in your life.
3. THIS WEEK: Every night, map out your tomorrow. Write down what you need to accomplish and prioritize. Then, on the next day, make sure you follow through.