Dozens of Los Angeles-based entrepreneurs gathered on Wednesday, May 28 at the Historic Women’s Club in Santa Monica-networking, chatting and pitching their newest ventures.
The event was part of The LA Tech Agenda’s series, “The Campfire,” a series of Fireside Chats that bring venture capitalists, Angels and start-ups together.
On Wednesday, Josh Elman, a venture capitalist with a background in product development, spoke to a room of entrepreneurs-giving them advice about their start-ups. Rob Kornegay, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a law firm that has advised more IPOs than any other firm, moderated the discussion.
Having worked with first with LinkedIn, then, Facebook and then Twitter, Elman has had plenty of experience with the product side of business.
Now on the other end, Elman works as a venture capitalist, investing in the same kinds of companies and start-ups of which he was once a part.
The question that Elman says has dominated all of his career decisions: “How do you, as a company, get a product get to hundreds of millions of people?” came up again and again in Elman’s advice and guidance.
Elman spoke on everything from networks to marketing to “crispness of vision” but stressed the power of the masses-the key to the success of a product is finding a way to get it to hundreds of millions of people, he suggested.
“And how do you get this distribution up?” asked a member of the crowd during the Question and Answer session following the discussion between Elman and Kornegay. The answer is thoughtfulness, says Elman.
Elman made the point that once something goes right, you can’t just move on and accept the success without question-you need to find out what it was that brought you success. “The single biggest factor is the search for deep understanding,” Elman said.
Elman also discussed networking, something all the attendees were already participating in at the event-both before and after the facilitated discussion. Elman encouraged the crowd to build a network in “every little thing [they] do,” stressing that it is easiest to build relationships when the partners have a shared goal in mind. “The best way you can build these relationships is to work on something together, ” he said.
When asked about the skepticism surrounding the position of a venture capitalist, Elman talked about viewing VCs as knowledgeable individuals who can help the founder realize a vision. “They understand the journey of turning a product into a company into a self-sustaining business,” he said. In Elman’s case, he works mostly on the consumer side of the businesses he invests in, simply because that is where he has the experience.
Because he was speaking to a group of entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, Elman addressed the problem of Silicon Valley as dominating the technology market.
To answer this concern, Elman pointed to Snapchat, Tinder and Whisperer-companies located in Los Angeles-as evidence of the market for technology in LA.
In fact, he suggested that there is a niche for technology in Los Angeles based on its entertainment and celebrity culture. As for the afore mentioned companies, Elman suggested that it was “easier to understand [those] kinds of models outside the San Francisco area.”
In fact seeing the potential in Los Angeles, Greylock is working on hiring people within the company to specifically look at the LA area for possible investments.
After the event, the crowd immediately formed a line to Elman in order to introduce themselves and their newest ideas and mingled with one another, forming connections to other entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area.
Possibly it will be one of these young entrepreneurs who will be the next to get their product to hundreds of millions of people.