How do you talk to an angel? Boris Wertz is one of the leading tech angel investors in North America and the Founder of Version One Ventures. In October, he came to the Clio HQ for a candid AmA in which he openly discussed his success and how he picks winning companies for investment.
For anyone with an entrepreneurial bend or a desire for building a successful venture (be it a tech startup or a law firm), Boris offered plenty of advice. First, Boris knows that any enterprise is all about people and their vision. A business is just a business; a practice just a practice. There are hundreds and thousands of both, but what sets the brightest stars apart from the rest of the heavens are the people: people make the business!
Or the practice, if you prefer. Certainly, that starts at the top with the founders or the partners setting things up. If you don’t know what you want to achieve and you can’t articulate it, no one else is going to do it for you. Worse still, no one else will believe in you. A lack of understanding of what you are trying to do is a red flag to any outsider, be it an investor or a client.
From there, the next key ingredients to law firm success are the people you surround yourself with. This includes partners, associates, employees, suppliers, etc. These people are going to share in your vision and be a part of driving your success.
Three key ingredients to success
Boris mentions three key factors for setting yourself up and surrounding yourself with the right people—and some mistakes to avoid. First, everyone involved needs are aligned around the greater vision of the firm. This means connecting to the five- or ten-year goals of the organization, contributing to and living its values, and having a deep understanding of why they are there and what they want to achieve as a team. Second, all parties should always look at how can they continually improve.
This means seeking innovation, investing in personal improvement, giving and receiving good feedback, challenging yourself, and being constructive and collaborative. Complacency can breed stagnation. Or worse. And third, everyone (the leaders in particular) must believe that the team as a whole is more important than the individual players. It is truly a case of the sum being greater than the whole of the parts. Certainly, everyone has their role to play, but winners play as a team.
Learning from mistakes
Boris’ biggest mistake? He told the audience that when he first started out, he relied too much on individuals who were solid contributors in their own right, but ultimately were bad for the company—either because they weren’t team players or they were too involved in politics or their own egos and agendas. While these people may often be top performers and have an impact on the business, you can’t operate out of fear of losing such people if they are a drain on your energy, resources, or culture. That will ultimately limit your success.
The right team is made of individual stars working together as a collective toward a common goal. Building a successful enterprise isn’t easy. But when you are surrounded by and work with people who are passionate, have a lot of talent and smarts, and are willing to work hard in alignment with the overall goals, you’ve laid a foundation that from the get-go makes the rise to the top much more achievable. And much more agreeable. A willingness to always help out will help win out in the end.
In 2012, Boris was part of the team that led a $6 million Series B investment in Clio, through his association with Acton Capital Partners, a Munich-based growth equity investor. Other businesses in Boris’ portfolio of 40+ companies include Edmodo, Flurry, Frank & Oak, Indiegogo, Indochino, Julep, Top Hat, Unbounce, and Wattpad.