I’m not a hater. I always try to look on the bright side. Hands down, I’m an optimist. It’s hard to be an entrepreneur if you are not. Cynicism may be a way of life for some, even a sport for others in this always highly connected but too often low touch world. But, in my opinion there is nothing noble about being cynical. Anyone can do it, it doesn’t take much effort and in my experience it rarely leads to victory.
Therefore I am an entrepreneur and venture capitalist that likes ABC’s hit reality show Shark Tank. Because I try to look for the good in it, not the bad. Shark tank can help to promote positive aspirations in people while educating a little, around the edges.
However, is Shark Tank indicative of life as an entrepreneur? Not really. Is it reality? NO! No five minute snippet on TV can even begin to tell a tiny part of the multiple year saga that starting most companies entails. Is it reality TV? Yes! Is it story-telling with slivers of truth in order to make money and sell a product? Yes and Yes!
Indulge me a little… It is a bit ironic and then in another way, totally not, that the sharks are being entrepreneurs themselves and filling a market with robust demand by promoting an even less than half-baked view of what entrepreneurship really is through the show. I trust that they know this themselves, through their own experiences as successful entrepreneurs.
And speaking firsthand… I enjoyed my 10 minute plus conversation with Marc Cuban, that got whittled down to less than 1 minute on the show last week. We are co-investors in several deals together and I believe he embodies a lot about entrepreneurship that is good.
And finally, to what really matters… Peter Thorpe, the founder of Fire Avert, defines what is good about entrepreneurship in so many ways. Here is a guy that was at the end of his rope when he first came to see me. He started Fire Avert years before while literally fighting fires as a college student. He had experienced the pain first hand, as he went on fire call after call. “There had to be a better way. Something that would protect more people and save lives!” And to his credit, unlike most other people, he stepped outside of his comfort zone and tried to do something about this pain he saw and experienced firsthand. That is a subtle, yet fundamental difference between entrepreneurs and those that are not, they are highly biased towards action.
As an investor I said no to Peter two, three, maybe even four or five times before finally saying yes. I was reluctant to do a deal, but to his credit again, he didn’t give up and he didn’t take no for an answer. Kind of like with Lori last week;) Based on my background and other investments I had made, we mutually agreed that we may be able to make something special out of Fire Avert together; he has led the business and we’ve been able to help capitalize the business through investment, a large line of credit as well as open distribution to thousands of families in need of FireAvert through our real estate portfolio. I hope it works out well for both of us, in the end. But, if Fire Avert doesn’t take the world by storm, I am confident Peter will be fine. The goodness of his character assures that. And I can sleep well all night long, knowing that my capital may give wings to an honest entrepreneurs dreams. I feel the same way about the 60+ other founders I’ve been fortunate to back over the last five years.
So here’s to Peter and Fire Avert’s success! And to all the other good and honest entrepreneurs across the world that lay it on the line every day in order to make the world a better place for us all! If a reality TV show, like SharkTank, despite its obvious flaws can really help even one meaningful idea to flourish and bless lives? Then great, mission accomplished in my mind.