About The Guest
Steve Hoffman or Captain Hoff, as he’s called in Silicon Valley is the chairman and CEO of founder space, one of the world’s leading incubators and accelerators. He’s also an angel investor, limited partner in August Capital, serial entrepreneur and author of several award-winning books. These include Make Elephants Fly published by Hachette, and Surviving A Startup published by Harper Collins. Hoffman was the founder and chairman of the Producers Guild Silicon Valley Chapter Board of Governors of the new media Council and founding member of the Academy of televisions Interactive Media Group.
I really enjoyed interviewing Steve in this particular episode. He is a very charismatic and energetic person. When you listen to the interview, you can really hear the energy and positivity in his voice throughout the conversation. You can tell he is very passionate about the startup innovation scene.
A couple of things that I could relate to with Steve is your parents suggesting what you should study. His dad suggested to study computers, so Steve went and got an electrical computer engineering degree (I originally started off in chemical engineering but then finished with a degree in biochemistry). He also discusses his very long meandering path to get to where he is today. Again with myself, I have quite the long twisty, topsy-turvy career path. I always tell people that my career path resembles something similar to either a rock climbing wall or jungle gym versus a ladder.
Make Elephants Fly
Facebook Group: FoundersSpace
Main Points From This Episode
2:36 – Being open to change. Entrepreneurs prefer challenges over routine. Doing the same thing over and over can be very boring.
10:00 – More often than not, businesses blossom out of side projects. Sharing your knowledge and experience through blog posts. Having an online presence enables you to connect you to potential clients and customers.
11:34 – How To Determine if an Accelerator is right for your startup. It’s not for everybody. If you don’t have the experience or the network in the startup world then it can be very beneficial. Joining an accelerator enables you to have access to all sorts of people such as investors and lawyers. It also provides access to capital and also how to raise capital.
Editor’s Note: While the majority of accelerators cater to startups that are innovating and using new technology versus traditional types of businesses, there are accelerators that cater to emerging forms of entrepreneurship such as social enterprises. Sheridan EDGE is an incubator/accelerator that helps entrepreneurs develop businesses, including non-profit and for-profit social enterprise ideas. ELLA is an Accelerator for Women Entrepreneurs through York University. This program supports women entrepreneurs in both product-based and service-based industries.
14:01- On top of the numerous struggles that founders face running a startup, startups from overseas have additional struggles such as the costs of getting up running fast in Silicon Valley. Founders may not know how to pitch to investors in the U.S. or there may be a language barrier and entrepreneurs may have difficulty in expressing the business idea in English.
20:23- (This episode was recorded back in the beginning of May when both Canada and the U.S. were still in lockdown)
What to do in a time like this when businesses have been hit hard is to go back to your customers, since you already have relationships with them. Figure out what their current problems they have and see if you can help solve these problems for them.
24:26- Investors are very selective to begin with on which startups they decide to invest in. In hard times they can become even more selective because there are more startups that need money. In the stock market and tech sector, high technology startups that are providing value online have weathered the storm fairly well because they are not totally reliant on offline customers.
It’s important to not focus on the virus. Don’t try to remake your whole business, just for the virus.
It’s really important to focus on trying not to be too reactive, but more proactive and focusing on the long term.
*** To learn more about investing in startups check out these episodes:
Episode 20: Arlan Hamilton: The Who Woman Who Built a Venture Capital Fund From Scratch While Homeless
Episode 15: Investing In the New York Tech Startup Scene With Tribeca Venture Partners
27:07- Your business strategy needs to be long term. The short term will change very fast and the needs will change very fast.
31:19- Try to read as diverse of a portfolio of books as possible to help think in different ways, helps you to innovate and help other entrepreneurs.
33:34- Three qualities that make up a great CEO. The CEO is really the one who makes or breaks the company in the early stage.
- GREAT LEADERSHIP – The first job of a CEO is really to go out and get other co-founders. Without them, you can’t build anything. Great leadership also means you can get investors to invest. You can go out and get customers to believe in your product. You can get the press, the attention of the media.
- CURIOSITY -Leaders who are very curious, always asking questions, always analyzing, picking apart stuff, trying to figure it out. They going to go deeper than other people and they’re going to figure out what’s coming next.
- STAMINA – The ability to just keep going when especially when things get hard. If you give up easily, it’s going to be very hard for you to be an entrepreneur. If you can’t handle stress, it’s going to be very hard for you to continue as an entrepreneur.
40:36 – Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Founders of Google) are a couple of startup founders that Steve admires. Not just because they’re brilliant but because he believes they really want to do good in the world. They really want to better humanity and they’re very humble. They were very smart in recognizing that they didn’t have the needed skillset for a CEO, so they hired someone who did, Eric Schmidt at the time.
He also admires Elon Musk, who is the opposite of humble. Like Larry and Sergey, he is a visionary and he has discipline. To be the CEO, he has all those skillsets in abundance. Even if it sounds crazy, they’ll push and push and push.
42:53 – It’s so important to find complementary people. Don’t worry about your idea or building the technology. Worry about finding the right people.
If you find the right people, there’s a million problems in the world that need to be solved. You can go out and figure out which ones are the best opportunities, but the hard part is finding the people.
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