It’s not all about the money.
That’s what John Connors wishes he would have known before starting his career, one that took him from the Montana ranches to the Microsoft C-Suite.
Connors, who joined Ignition Partners in 2005 and is currently general partner, spoke at the StageDotO conference last month in Seattle with fellow venture capitalist Neal Dempsey, general partner at Bay Partners.
Looking back, Connors said he’s realized that chasing dollar signs is not necessarily a path to happiness.
“Making a lot of money won’t make you more happy, secure, and centered,” said the former Microsoft CFO. “I think it’s the opposite. If that’s what you are chasing, when you get there, your life won’t be better.”
A study by psychologists from Purdue University and the University of Virginia found that the ideal income for “life satisfaction” was $95,000 on an individual basis.
Veteran entrepreneurs also often advise that money shouldn’t be the sole motivation for building a startup.
Dempsey, an early Starbucks investor who also made the Forbes Midas List, said he never wants to see anything about liquidity on a pitch deck.
“Never tell me that I’m going to get rich on a company,” he said. “I’m already rich. Tell me about how you’re going to build this business.”
Trust and rollerblading
Earlier in the discussion, Dempsey was asked about what makes a great entrepreneur. He said “it’s all about the people.”
“You’ve got to have failed at something; you got to have a big curiosity quotient; you can’t give up and be stymied by some problem; you have to have great listening skills,” he said. “If you can’t listen to people you’re trying to hire or your investors or customers or prospects, you can’t succeed.”
When an entrepreneur tries to land funding, Dempsey said trust between founders and investors is huge. It’s hard to learn what people are really about when you’re just sitting across the desk from one another.
That’s why Dempsey likes “unorthodox interviewing.” He recalled a visit with a startup that was looking for investment. Its founders made Dempsey put on a pair of rollerblades and they rode around together Cambridge, Mass.
Dempsey went “from pillar to pillar,” stumbling his way across the streets. It wasn’t pretty, but he did it, together with the entrepreneurs — and that was most important.
“That was the ultimate test — they wanted to trust me, and I trusted them,” Dempsey said.