5 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Michael Moritz (Sequoia Capital) and Lisa Sugar (Popsugar)

Entrepreneurial thought Leaders : Follow your Instincts and Find Your Path- Michael Moritz & Lisa Sugar

Bitesize Summary: Ultimately it boils down to discovering your passions and following your heart. Doing the things you love daily will lead you to “your calling” and this will lead to success.

Why should you listen?

Michael Moritz is a venture powerhouse. He started his career as a journalist and has gone on to become a leading Venture Capitalist with Sequoia Capital. His vast portfolio includes Paypal, Google, Skyscanner, Yahoo! and Youtube just to name a few. When it comes to recognising trends, predicting success and supporting entrepreneurs, he definitely knows a thing or two.

Lisa Sugar is the cofounder of POPSUGAR the media parent company of POPSUGAR, ShopStyle and POPSUGAR Must Have. The brands have reached 85million visitors worldwide in a variety of verticals including; Beauty, Fashion, Fitness, Entertainment and Parenting. She has demonstrated vast talents in content creation, Brand building and adapting to the evolving technology scene.

Focus on the Big Decisions

Mike writes in one of his books about how ultimately it’s only the big decisions that end up mattering. For him, these big decisions were immigrating from the UK to the USA in pursuit of better opportunities and launching his career with Sequoia. Similarly Lisa describes her decision to marry her cofounder (before they founded popsugar) and moving to the West Coast, again, in pursuit of opportunities. As an entrepeneur think about what the “big decisions” might look like for you. What does success look like, where is it most likely, what are the things you need to do to get there. If success means being in Silicon Valley, then align your life in a way which can get you there. Ultimately, think big picture and then don’t stress too much about the smaller decisions that will get you there.

Only you know what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about. Don’t allow people to mould you into their versions of successful. Follow your gut instincts in terms of decision making. This might mean what business to start, the direction of the firm, early stage recruitment etc. There will only ever be two outcomes to following your instincts. First, you may fail and thus have gained a valuable lesson. For example, Mikes failure in investing in Webvan. The business was too early for it’s time but he was able to recognise a future market and turn the failure into a success by investing in Instacart. Second, you may succeed. Lisa points out how it’s also ok not to know. Sometimes you just equipped to make the right decisions and therefore trying to make the perfect decision is pointless. Follow your gut and learn from the outcome.

Lisa started pop sugar as a way of interacting between her friends with the type of content she loved and as a learning experience (to improve her writing). It then became something much bigger, because her clear passion for the content shone through. Mike mentions her passion at multiple times, further implying the importance of following you gut and beginning with your passions. What do you love to do, what problem do you really want to solve (not what do you think is most profitable), what would you do daily for free? popsugar’s early motto was “insanely addictive”. Endeavour to be insanely addicted to anything you do.

Demonstrate what good things look like

When seeking Venture funding, be mindful of the fact that your is not always their passion. You have to demonstrate to them what the best outcome might look like, if you have a track record even better. This might be through current sales, aligning your visions or even demonstrating your “obsession”. BUT, remember it is possible to target venture capitalists. Find the firms/individuals who are passionate about your industry, who have a track record in the type of business you’re starting and who you feel can help you best. Lisa mentions how she was drawn to Mike because of his famous success in the types of business and industry she admired/aspired to become. Similarly, Mike points out that Lisa and Brian as founders had already demonstrated they understood their own market and that they were obsessive about being successful in it. These people will become your mentors and very important shareholders, so be intelligent about who you pick.

Accept the Dynamic nature of life

As your business grows, it ok to change with it. Lisa began as a content writer, as this was her passion. Now she manages the direction of around 450 employees, she actively discovers new verticals, she is involved in marketing. This is why passion about your “problem” is important. You have to want to solve a problem, in any way required. As the world changes, the ways and the tools you use to solve this problem will change and you have to embrace this change. For Lisa this meant accepting mobile and gearing content and sales for mobile. For Mike this means staying on top of trends and what business might be viable moving forward.


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Disclaimer: Please note, all of the content in this post is my own personal reflections on the podcasts. These are my own personal insights and intended as a way for me to engage with the content I hear more effectively.

  • Originally published at pavcast.com on January 26, 2016.