Author and Venture Capitalist Daniel Strauss’ Keynote: On Entrepreneurship

It was definitely a different kind of event at Innovation City with author and venture capitalist Daniel Strauss in the house. He started off by taking a moment to allow us to bring awareness to ourselves by taking a few breaths and sitting in silence – something that we definitely need to do more of, in this fast-paced world we live in.

Strauss himself is a very soft-spoken, kind-eyed, mysterious sort of fellow; very unlike the loud, confident, and sometimes obnoxious business gurus we are often accustomed to. Even when he boasted about his VC company’s achievements (one startup grew 45.7 times in 21 months), he chose to focus on the human aspect of the win.    

“I like to lecture at schools. I do it for free. It’s what I really love to do – to reach the minds of young people and help them become future entrepreneurs,” he said, smiling broadly.

The difficult task of growing net worth as entrepreneurs is basically the gist of what his book Billionaire Mindset is about, while also dealing with learning how to ‘free your mind from self-imposed limitations.’ 

Just how does one do this? Strauss took us on a journey to Asia, where his personal mentor, a billionaire entrepreneur, had taken him under his wing, and taught him the gift of CLARITY. A clarity of mind in the business world appears to be the secret weapon to defeating self-doubt and building confidence, but also applies to the actual wheels and cogs of sound business practice. 

As he explained his amazing fortune at having this Miyagi-like character teach him to ‘wax-on/wax-off’ in the business world, one couldn’t help but think how true mentors should operate – spreading their own wisdom around to everyone lucky enough to receive it. 

Strauss recalled a story where, sitting at a restaurant with his mentor and a young couple, he realized that the questions his mentor asked the couple became crucial in his realization that up to this point, he actually knew nothing! That his career goals and moves had in fact been moving him in the wrong direction. It prompted him to quit his job and start his own incredible journey.   

“I would ask (my mentor) a question and he would take days to answer. He just repeated over and over: Get clarity; ask the correct question. The answer to any question should always simply be yes or no,” he said.

Strauss said that most startups come to him with a great pitch but fall short of getting funding because they tend to sell the product and not present the value of the company. This makes him often want to buy the product, not invest in the company. 

“You are the first investor of your company but you don’t know how to act and think like an investor. Will you ever be able to create shareholder value?” Strauss said.  

Money is the lazy way of solving entrepreneurial problems, according to Strauss. Everyone thinks money can solve their problems, grow their business, and get ahead. But ask yourself the question: What makes you think you can make money with money, if you can’t make it without any money? 

“If you’re not clear about the reasons beyond the desire for money, then you’re not ready for it,” Strauss said. 

The audience at Innovation City were enthralled with these and other big lessons learned about business growth, ethics, self-realization and self-growth, all entwined in an evening with a best-selling author, guru-esque, kind and gentle, and seemingly very lucky, Daniel Strauss.