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TAMPA—Dean Akers has a slightly different approach when it comes to raising money.
The Tampa entrepreneur, whose led companies specializing in everything from tire sales to laser hair removal to a medical device for hemorrhoid sufferers, says entrepreneurs spend too much time thinking about raising actual dollars when they go out on the financing trail. Instead, he said new business owners first should consume themselves with the idea of raising “intellectual capital.”
“A lot of times, just going out to ‘raise capital’ gets in people’s face. They are almost unsure,” said Akers, who spoke Tuesday as part of the Tampa Bay Startup Week festivities. “A lot of people like to help, and they love to help young entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs that have vision and dream. And they may not be able to give you money capital, but they can give you intellectual capital and they can turn you on to where to find it.”
He added: “Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and then I think the money will come.” Akers also stressed that not every business needs venture funding, noting how he started a successful construction company on $100,000 in credit card debt.
Asked by moderator Marc Nager about angel groups, panelist Brian Smith of LCG Advisors said he’s not a big fan of the organizations. While angel groups may have money to deploy, Smith said many of the people have a lot of time on their hands and are looking for something to talk about with their country club buddies.
“Look for information. Look for advice. Look for people who can steer you in the right direction,” said Smith. “And that direction may be away from capital all together.”
In addition to lambasting angel groups, Smith also took aim at the term “serial entrepreneur,” words that he said just make him “cringe.” Some self-described serial entrepreneurs don’t have enough skin in the game or are simply not wholly-committed to an individual project.
“What investors are looking for is an entrepreneur who has everything in this particular investment,” he said. “This is what their career is relying on. This is what they are spending all of their time and attention on.”
Being a part-time entrepreneur usually doesn’t sit well with investors, Smith said. “You’ve got to take that plunge,” he added. “I tell people this all of the time: If you are really serious about this or believe in the product or idea, you’ve got to take that plunge, and you’ve got to find a way to make it happen.”
Akers also stressed the importance of entrepreneurs honing skills, even as they get older. That’s one of the reasons why the 62-year-old entrepreneur said he’s been studying up so much recently on digital marketing.
“If you are an entrepreneur, you need to be constantly sharpening your axe,” he said. “You need to be constantly learning about what I call the three legs of the stool: operations, sales and marketing, and finance.”