Introducing Sound Ventures
Most of us know the name, Ashton Kutcher, as a famous movie star and the husband of the gorgeous Mila Kunis. However, as a speaker at the annual Forbes Under 30 Summit, Ashton took the stage as a venture capitalist with Guy Oseary, his partner at Sound Ventures.
He entered from stage left without any air of arrogance or entitlement, wearing jeans and a plain sweater along with a baseball cap he’d casually adjust from time to time. He was quiet and reserved. Unlike some, he never interrupted a moderator or felt the need to fit a novel’s worth of words into a single question’s answer. He was real and when he spoke, he earned our respect.
Throughout our lives, we may go down several different paths before finding our best fit. While some try and separate past from present, Ashton embraced it and attributed his career in acting as a foundation for the one he has now in investing. He said, “As an actor, you need to have empathy for your characters, which is a skill that directly correlates with investing”. Empathy; it’s a word we don’t hear often when discussing venture capitalists but it makes sense. How can someone decide to invest in another without the ability to place themselves in their position and truly understand, not only the project, but the person behind it as well.
Both Ashton and Guy agreed that, “building out the company brand story is the marketing fabric of the company, while the secret sauce is starting with a good project”. Essentially, you need a good idea to succeed, but without a good story and the right people, there’s no guarantee that the idea will ever get off the ground.
So what are these VC’s looking for in an entrepreneur?
4 Traits of Entrepreneurs Worth Investing In
- Domain Expertise – they understand the data and their competitive landscape.
- Ability to Sell – they have charisma, so much so that I would want to work for them.
- Grit – they have the ability to overcome obstacles no mater what. (Sometimes, when meeting with entrepreneurs, Ashton will create adversity as a test to see how the entrepreneur(s) react and handle it as a way to gauge “grit”.)
- Gut Feeling – this is on the VC side but yes, gut does play a part in Ashton’s decision making.
Additional Advice To Help You Through
“Metrics count. If you can’t measure it, you can’t prove it”
Much of what was said really drove home those four traits that create the right investment situation for the Sound Ventures partners. In speaking about the work that’s needed for a venture to succeed,
“There is no substitute for hard work. Work on the behalf of others, not yourself; grind generously, not selfishly.” ~Ashton Kutcher
Millenials tend to get a bad reputation of being spoiled, impatient, and lazy. The beauty to the above quote is that he was speaking to a room filled with entrepreneurs under 30 years old that were selected by Forbes to be there. It was, quite possibly, the best piece of advice he could give; working selfishly will only get you so far, but working generously, now that’s how you build an empire.
Finally, both Guy and Ashton agreed that they look for companies who can excite them.
“If you can excite a consumer base who hasn’t previously been engaged, there’s potential”
That said, even if they like an idea, and the entrepreneur who came up with it, they still won’t invest in something that they feel is too far outside their wheelhouse. Do your due diligence on all the investors you meet with to ensure that their expertise and industry knowledge is aligned with what your company needs to thrive.
Read more on Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary from the Forbes 2016 Under 30 Summit: