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1Mby1M Virtual Accelerator Investor Forum: With Stewart Alsop of Alsop Louie Partners (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, Mar 1st 2018

Sramana Mitra: The point I’m going to make to your point is that I don’t think unreasonable entrepreneurs means stupid entrepreneurs. I think I’m a pretty unreasonable entrepreneur. What we are doing with One Million by One Million is a pretty unreasonable concept, but I’m not stupid.

Stewart Alsop: I don’t know if you’ve heard me talk about it before. I have a few things that I’ve been plugging for almost 30 years,

which is this whole Valley asshole theory. Similarly, being an asshole doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk. Being an asshole means you’re driven and that you accomplish something. A lot of the assholes out there created multi-billion organizations without raising money.

It’s not a one-to-one relationship. The path to success is not something that’s written in the book. In particular, people who read books to find out the path to success are the people who are probably not going to be the assholes of tomorrow. You have to define your own success. You have to find your own path and believe in something and see what the future looks like. That can be a business that raises no capital. The entrepreneur owns the whole thing.

Sramana Mitra: Being driven doesn’t mean that you have to be an asshole either.

Stewart Alsop: You don’t have to be a jerk but you need to be an asshole to make a company successful. There are plenty of nice entrepreneurs out there. Michael Valley is a great example. He’s a really nice guy. He built a massively successful company without raising a lot of money until recently.

Sramana Mitra: Slightly different question, because you have so much perspective including being in the media industry, what’s going to happen to media? There’s a complete implosion underway?

Stewart Alsop: It’s gone. The media business as we know it is gone. We just need to accept that. I have old buddies who are still journalists. I’ve become a venture capitalist, but what happened to me was a long time event. It happened 20 years ago back when there was still a journalism business and you can still make a living out of it. You want to get out of the way of an on-rushing train. You want to do it before the train shows up and knocks you over.

I think the right attitude is to say, “What you believed about media is gone.” That’s gone. There are now new businesses that are being born out of the ashes of that business. Those are very interesting businesses. They do have a business model radically different from the ones we’re used to. Over time, those new businesses are born and will increase and demonstrate their power. There is this opportunity to create new businesses out of the ashes of the old one.

Sramana Mitra: It seems to me that brands have become media companies at this point because the content is the brand.

Stewart Alsop: I don’t believe that that’s correct. Media companies are formed out of projects. This was true back in the heydays too. The big media companies were huge piles of projects. That’s why they’re so badly managed and there’s a lot of internal politics. Everybody is fighting for their projects and what they believe in. That’s still, fundamentally, true.

Brands operate out of product management environment, which is really different. Media projects is different from building consumer products. I know what you’re talking about because GoPro is supposed to become a media company.

Sramana Mitra: It’s very hard. If you’re selling a toothbrush, how can you do a media company around a toothbrush brand. How much toothbrush-related content can you publish?

Stewart Alsop: If you’re a great brand company, you know how to tell a story. You have a point of view. You’re passionate about the thing that you do. Those are elements that are true also of media although the passion and commitment is usually committed with something different.

These are principles of marketing when you’re dealing with consumer companies. If you have customers, your customers want to know where you stand and what you believe in, even if you’re buying toothbrushes. It’s easy to put the two things but they are separate.

Sramana Mitra: Last question, what are you looking to invest in right now that our entrepreneurs should be aware of?

Stewart Alsop: We’re so all over the map. It’s very hard to say that there’s one thing. We are fascinated by vehicular technologies, batteries, autonomous driving, and artificial intelligence. We have a company that’s doing embedded heads-up display. It’s a material that you can embed in glass that allows you to project digital images in a glass. We have semiconductor companies. We have cyber security companies. We like to pick up some stuff that’s fun to play with. We like to have fun. Fun is how much money you can make. We’re totally into making money. We are venture capitalists after all.

Sramana Mitra: If you’re going to manage people’s funds, you have to deliver on the money side, otherwise you’re not in the game.

Stewart Alsop: Institutional investors are not the most fun people in the world, but they do get happy when you deliver lots of money.

Sramana Mitra: It was good catching up. Thank you for your time.

This segment is part 4 in the series : 1Mby1M Virtual Accelerator Investor Forum: With Stewart Alsop of Alsop Louie Partners
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