Insight is a Resource: Why Sean Brown Likes Investing in Experts
Early-stage investing can be, for lack of a better word, tricky. As founder and CEO of investment firm GO VC and a serial business-starter himself, Sean Brown has been on both sides of the boardroom table during pitch meetings. And he’s built a 15-year investment career by seeing through the tricks and buzzy pitches. We connected with Sean Brown to find out what startup owners raising capital should know about the process from an investor’s perspective.
1. What are the main criteria for you to consider when investing in an early-stage company?
Investors need to balance a long-term vision of an idea or business’s potential with the short-term needs and risks that could prevent success. Sean Brown has found that two criteria have led to the most effective investments for GO VC. “First, my team and I need to be able to connect with the founders. If we don’t feel a certain level of synergy early on, it probably isn’t going to work later either,” Brown said. “And although every startup pitches some kind of solution, we prefer projects that create value by helping people, because those ideas tend to resonate more.”
2. What’s the biggest mistake you made and the most important lesson you learned since you started investing?
Obviously, no investor hits a home run on every startup. But sometimes ventures that don’t pan out are more valuable in the long run because of the lessons they teach. This, Brown says, was an important lesson in itself. “In some of my early investments, the companies I worked with bit off more than they could chew, and I didn’t recognize that early enough,” Brown said. “One of the keys for GO VC has been supporting and staying involved with our startup partners, because applied expertise is a critical resource just like capital.”
3. What types of startups do you prefer to invest in?
Sean Brown and GO VC’s early investments were in the tech startup space, funding marketing, software, and other online-based companies. But that was due in part to Brown’s own experience in those fields, and the firm’s scope expanded organically as new opportunities appeared in other markets. “We prefer small, agile companies, and founders that are devoted and passionate about their projects,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t describe GO VC as a tech investor, especially now — we’ve evolved, and we’re working with businesses in a lot of different verticals.”
4. In your view, what value can startup accelerators add, and why?
Accelerators and business incubators can provide capital and development support for startups that are struggling to grow on their own. But the greatest benefit of those organizations is usually more personal, Brown said. “Accelerators are valuable, and for more than just funding,” Brown said. “We have our own incubation program at GO VC, and the most effective results from that have come from connecting people and building relationships. Other accelerators would probably say the same.”
5. What should startups think about before contacting a VC? What kind of questions impress you?
Entrepreneurs and new business owners who decide to raise capital may initially find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Common knowledge suggests presenting a transparent financial picture and realistic projections for growth. Brown recommends these steps too, but also points out that proving your industry expertise is an underrated aspect of getting an investor’s attention. “It’s always more satisfying to talk to people who know what they’re talking about, right? And not just in pitch meetings,” Brown said. “If someone can explain why a product or idea will succeed and not just how it works, it’s much more impressive, and the potential for growth is exponentially higher.
The Ultimate Guide to the Essential Social Skills in Business
Effective communication and strong relationships are essential for success in the workplace. One factor that can greatly influence these qualities is emotional intelligence, often abbreviated as EQ. EQ refers to the ability to identify, understand, and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Research has shown that individuals with high levels of EQ are better equipped to handle stress, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively with others (Chamorro-Premuzic & Sanger, 2016).
Research has consistently shown that emotional intelligence (EQ) is an important predictor of job performance and success in the workplace. EQ is comprised of a set of skills that allow individuals to recognize, understand, and regulate their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. In addition, individuals with high EQ are better able to communicate effectively, build relationships, and navigate complex social situations. As a result, they are often viewed as effective leaders and collaborators, and are more likely to achieve their personal and professional goals.
In fact, a number of studies have demonstrated the significant impact that EQ has on job performance and success. For example, one study of 85 upper-level managers found that those with higher EQ scores were rated as more effective leaders by their subordinates (Law, Wong, & Song, 2004). Another study of 151 employees found that those with higher EQ were more likely to be promoted within their organization over a five-year period (Carmeli, Brueller, & Dutton, 2009). These findings highlight the importance of EQ in the workplace and suggest that developing these skills can lead to significant benefits for both individuals and organizations.
According to a study conducted by TalentSmart, a leading provider of EQ assessments, EQ is responsible for 58% of success in all job types (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009). In contrast, IQ only accounts for about 4% of success in the workplace. This suggests that EQ is a crucial skill set for individuals in any professional field. Fortunately, EQ is a skill that can be developed and honed over time with practice and awareness.
There are several key components of EQ that are particularly important for success in the workplace. These include:
Self-Regulation: This refers to your capacity to recognize and control your emotions. Sometimes treating them when they arise may be necessary. Understanding how to manage your anger is essential. However, it can also cover how to control the feelings you’ll experience.
Self-Awareness: This implies recognizing and understanding your own feelings. Do noisy places make you nervous? Do other people talking over you make you angry? Knowing these truths about yourself shows that you are working on your self-awareness. Being conscious of yourself is necessary for this phase, which can be more complex than it sounds.
Socialization: This category focuses on your capacity to manage social interactions and direct relationships. It doesn’t entail dominating others but knowing how to work with others to achieve your goals. This could entail presenting your ideas to coworkers, leading a team, or resolving a personal disagreement.
Motivation: Strong motivators include external forces like money, status, or suffering. Internal motivation, however, plays a significant role in Goleman’s concept. By doing so, you demonstrate your ability to control your cause and initiate or continue initiatives of your own volition rather than in response to external demands.
Empathy: It’s equally critical to be sensitive to others’ feelings. This may entail learning to identify different emotional states in individuals — for example, can you tell the difference between someone at ease and someone anxious? — but it also requires comprehension of how other people may react to their current situation. Empathy is one of the essential traits in business and business leadership.
A thought leader in this space, Michael Ventura has built a career advising organizations on the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace. In his book, Applied Empathy, Ventura highlights the value of empathy in business and provides strategies for developing and applying this skill set. With two decades of experience as a leader, facilitator, and educator, Ventura’s work has made impact in with prestigious institutions such as Princeton University and the United Nations as well as corporate clients such as Google and Nike.
Through his work, Ventura advises leaders to focus on the development of EQ in order to help individuals improve their communication, collaboration, and leadership skills, ultimately leading to greater success in the workplace. Experts like Ventura continue to support the growing body of research on the value of EQ in business, and the evidence that organizations who invest in the EQ of their teams help to create a more empathetic and successful professional environment.
And it’s worth noting that EQ isn’t just important for individual success in the workplace, but also for overall organizational success. A study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that EQ was a better predictor of success than IQ or technical skills in the workplace, and that teams with higher levels of EQ tend to be more effective and productive (Boyatzis, Goleman, & Rhee, 1999). By cultivating a culture of empathy and emotional intelligence, organizations can improve their overall performance and create a more positive work environment for their employees.
In conclusion, emotional intelligence is a crucial component of success in the workplace, and individuals and organizations alike should prioritize the development of these skills. The ones that do not only develop a leading edge in their category, but also become a meaningful place to work for their teams. And in today’s rapidly changing talent landscape, the retention of highly capable, emotionally intelligent leaders is one of the greatest keys to unlocking success.
Boyatzis, R. E., Goleman, D., & Rhee, K. S. (1999). Clustering competence in emotional intelligence: Insights from the emotional competence inventory (ECI). In R. Bar-On & J. D. A. Parker (Eds.), Handbook of emotional intelligence (pp. 343-362). Jossey-Bass.
Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional intelligence 2.0. TalentSmart.
Chamorro-Premuzic, T., & Sanger, M. N. (2016). Does employee happiness matter? Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance, 3(2), 168-191.
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