You've started an online media company at a time when there isn't exactly a shortage of these sorts of start-ups. Boil your elevator pitch for Benzinga to a few sentences on why it's different from the competition.
We're news that you can use. There are a lot of places that aggregate news and put a pithy headline to make it sexy. That's not what we do. We're the guys who say, 'Here's the story and here are some ways you can react to the story,' either bullishly or bearishly.
You recently received a VC investment. What's a common mistake local entrepreneurs make when pitching VCs and how could they easily correct that?
It's not just about going to pitch a VC. When I decided I wanted to work for a hedge fund, I had to quit my job and invest full-time into that. I made it a commitment. There is a guy named Dan Loeb
who is an active investor who is ruffling feathers at Yahoo right now. He became kind of a friend so I started a Dan Loeb digest where I would email him ideas every week. He would write back. Sometimes when I didn't hear from him I would write a crazy thing. He would write back, 'You're out of your mind.' I would write back, 'Just making sure you're listening.' He cracked up. I invested time and delivered value to him. It's about delivering value. When you approach VCs, what's your value proposition?
A lot of people who are married or have a job can't make that leap of quitting to become an entrepreneur. How did you know you could do that?
When you have a family and you have bills to pay and do that, the anxiety you face is insane. That's the hardest part. But I don't believe in failure. I believe that if we assemble a smart group of people great things will happen, and we have.
Conventional wisdom dictates that Michigan-based VCs are not as aggressive as their counterparts on the coasts. Has that been your experience?
Yes. It's the culture.
Is a more aggressive VC culture necessarily a better one?
Not necessarily. It depends on what you're trying to do. You might want somebody who has a long-term road map. Some companies take nine years to build.
What does the recent rise of more early stage VCs in the region, like Detroit Venture Partners, say about the evolution of Metro Detroit's entrepreneurial ecosystem?
It means it's stronger. It means it's exciting and getting more respect. It means there is more interest in entrepreneurship. The more the merrier.