It never gets old.
Every year, I attend several college graduation events. And yes, there’s a certain sameness to them – flip the tassel, “Pomp and Circumstance,” and mortarboards in the air, not necessarily in that order – but I swear they never get old. There’s really nothing like the convergence of those two powerful graduation feelings: The sense of accomplishment and the excitement for what lies ahead.
My favorite ceremony? Until my own kids walk, it’s Berkeley-Haas. Not surprising, since it’s my alma mater. But in addition to that near-ancient connection, I’m always most excited about Berkeley-Haas graduation because we at Bee have committed to a deeply partnered relationship with the entrepreneurial programs there and the spectacular people those programs send into the world. (See below for a summary of our involvement.)
In the spirit of the graduation season, we thought to summarize some pieces of Bee Partners’ philosophy as a message to all graduates about to step onto the entrepreneurial path. These seemingly simple ideas have guided us in our post-college lives and we’ve witnessed their effectiveness for the startup founders we advise. I hope you find them useful.
First, breathe a sigh of relaxation and relief, a breath of post-graduation air. Enjoy it – you’ve earned it! Then, as you launch into startup life, teach yourself to breathe like marathoners do: steadily, deeply, and for the long race ahead. This race you’re beginning won’t go to the swift. It’s a race won by endurance, persistence, and determination. Learn to breathe for that.
University life is a bit of a particle collider. That’s one of its great assets – you run into people. That’s a little less the case in startup world. Your head’s going to be down, often for days at time. Don’t forget to collide. Find other people and learn about their lives, their interests, and their needs. Widen your world. How? Meet for coffee, get together for ping pong (not beer pong, college is over), go for a walk.
In school, your professors, advisors, and peers gave you reality checks, i.e., told you when you were doing something stupid. Now you’re on your own. It’s easy to delude yourself that you’re making progress when you get up and go to work every day, but you’ve got to be ruthlessly honest. Force some timetables to test your effectiveness. If you don’t have a customer by a hard deadline, consider that it’s time to cut and run or take a serious pivot.
Don’t say goodbye for good. Stay connected to your cohort – and your alma mater. You just spent years in the trenches with these folks and many of them have earned your trust. Keep in touch with them beyond social media. Share with them your successes and failures. Who knows… your first VP of engineering could be your old lab partner’s kid sister. We’ve seen it happen.
Resting your laurels on that crisp diploma is a sure way to become marginalized. The curiosity that made you a stellar student will continue to serve you in your startup life. Keep an open mind and continue to cultivate new experiences. Start with admitting that you don’t know everything… yet.
Bee and UC Berkeley
Bee Partners has a lengthy and tightly knit relationship with UC Berkeley. Garrett, Tim and I are regularly involved in university events and programs related to entrepreneurship, tech startup, investing, and business. All three serve as advisors to Haas accelerator SkyDeck, where Tim is head of the design program.
- We offer capital support to the Hansoo Lee Fellowship, and mentorship and office space to its awardees. Congratulations to this year’s fellows, Leon Rodriguez of NecesitoDoc, and Sarrah Nomanbhoy of NarHub!
- We are always pleased with and excited about the quality of students from Haas and love having them join our team. This year we congratulate Kira Noodleman and can’t wait to have her join the Investment Team here in August!
- I recently had the honor of moderating the Berkeley-Haas alumni panel “Venture Capital Perspectives.” This lively and engaged discussion led to some significant job opportunities between Bee Partners’ portfolio companies and Haas students. Special thanks to our panelists Lo Toney (GV, MBA 1999), John Coelho (StepStone Global, MBA 2007), Wes Selke (Better Ventures, MBA 2007), and Lev Mass (xSeed Capital, MBA 2007).
- I also served as a judge on “Bear Trap,” the Cal version (better in our opinion!) of “Shark Tank.” This was a fun time for sure, but surely not easy to pick winners from among so many great contestants. Many thanks to George Panagiotakopoulos and the rest of the Berkeley Entrepreneurs Association.
- And I judged 2017 LAUNCH: University of California Startup Accelerator Demo Day alongside Joanne Chen, Foundation Capital; Noah Doyle, Javelin Ventures; Ayush Agarwal, Facebook; Keith Eadie, Adobe Advertising Cloud (formerly known as TubeMogul); Nicolas El Baze, Partek Ventures; and Jeremy Fiance, The House Fund.