KARL MOORE – This Is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today, I am delighted to speak to Yona Shtern, who is the CEO of Beyond the Rack.
So Yona, you have had jobs at Avon, Saks Fifth Avenue – some impressive companies before you became an entrepreneur. Do you think that is a great start for an entrepreneur, to go out and get some experience before you become an entrepreneur?
YONA SHTERN – I think it’s actually quite invaluable, depending on what type of entrepreneurship you want to pursue or what industry you want to go after. I think there is an invaluable lesson that can be taken away, in a career path, both from how you want to do things and how you don’t want to do things and where you can identify opportunities, say for innovation.
KARL MOORE – You have worked a lot with VCs [venture capitalists] raising money; what are VCs looking for these days?
YONA SHTERN – As much as anything else, when a venture capitalist is looking at an investment opportunity, the first and most important thing that they are always looking at is the management team, or the founding team or the founder. The reason for that is they have an appreciation for the fact that the vast majority of their investments are, more than likely, they are going to fail or go sideways. So you want to make sure that the guy that’s in charge, or the guys that are in charge, are going to be capable of meandering their way through and managing the process to a plausible outcome. So as much as anything else, they are betting their money on the person and not the idea.
KARL MOORE – So are they looking for a younger person or someone who has gotten some experience under their belt? What people do they prefer these days?
YONA SHTERN – My own personal experience would indicate, and I think there are some trends related to this, that VCs like young startups; they like young, fresh faces and young, fresh dynamic energy levels, but the reality is, and I think there was a study done that kind of went contrary to this, that the entrepreneurs that are more likely to succeed are the ones that actually have previous business experience, and typically ones that are somewhat more mature because they have been through things and they might approach things in a slightly more mature way.