What do you look for?

Lemonade-standI get asked all the time "what do you look for" when you invest in a company.  It is a hard one to answer because there is not really a specific answer.  I want to see someone who I believe is an entrepreneur.  That means they have a fire in their belly, are super smart and imho has the ability to scale, listen, be agile.  Those are just some of the qualities of an entrepreneur.         

These days everyone seems to want to be an entrepreneur.  I have said before and will say again that I am a huge fan of the life style entrepreneurs.  People who have figured out how to have their own business which makes enough to fund their life style, their brain and their drive.  Obviously I like the entrepreneur who wants to think big as those are the people I invest in.  

I think one of the reasons I am drawn to this business is that I am an entrepreneur at heart.  I started as young as 3 years old where I realized that the puppies my Mom was selling in the front yard would benefit from selling lemonade too.  Do all entrepreneurs start with a lemonade stand?  That yearning to build businesses stuck with me.  In 2nd grade I decided that my friend down the block and I were so incredibly talented in the entertainment business that we would put on a show in my backyard and sell tickets for all the neighbors to see.  It was obvious from the first show that my talent was not in singing but selling the tickets because the attempt to put on a second show failed miserably.  In 5th grade I started a business selling cinnamon sticks to my peers at school.  I decided to branch out with other flavors such as lemon and mint but they did not sell as well so I discounted those sticks and moved all my inventory into cinnamon.  Short lived but a nice money maker for a few months.  I had 3 jobs in high school working at a plant store, coaching junior high school and elementary school kids in after school sports and managing the office for the Montgomery Department of Recreation that put on all these events and I also taught guitar lessons a few nights a week.  I worked through college too.

I have always loved building businesses and figuring out how to make money.  Those skills have served me well over the years as I built businesses and worked in start-ups.   It was almost innate.  Even now I am essentially building a business with our own capital from investing in entrepreneurs and real estate.  I was never the best student although I always got by.  It has always been work that has inspired me. 

I look back at many of the decisions I have made and the roads that I have taken that have led me to where I am now.  I would say that my ever burning passion to build businesses is exactly what I am looking for on the other side of the table.  That passion sometimes starts the second you come out of the womb.

Comments (Archived):

  1. AG

    What’s been interesting is how clearly this fire often comes across in the profiles of women you do. I’m intrigued by that drive (which is not just an I want to work hard at a desk and make money drive) but wonder where it does come from. You mention the womb and sometImes it does seem like its just a personality someone’s born with, but there have got to be some type of psychological analysis of this.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i’d love to see that analysis

  2. Brandon Burns

    It’s nice that you admit how personal it is for you.Usually, there’s a pretty big gap between the reasons investors say they made an investment and what the real reasons were. I particularly love it when they pontificate about their crystal ball prediction that a certain sector is going to blow up, and the company is driving it — when we all know in reality that there was no crystal ball, and either 1) the entrepreneur proved the value with facts and numbers, or 2) the investor was acting on something driven more by personal circumstances (really liking the entrepreneur as a person, a recco from a strong personal connection, trying to beat someone else to a hot deal, etc.).I haven’t invested (too poor!), and I haven’t seriously sought capital yet, but its clear that investing is more personal than anything, by a long shot. That’s immediately seen in how an investor talks to you when you’ve been intro’d vs. you found them on your own; which, and maybe this is short sighted, I think is a bit sad. When you think about all the capable people out there, especially when you think of outsiders to the startup / investment circles, who may be better poised to build something great than someone who’s “in,” but they don’t get the shot because they don’t have the right personal connection. And, really, the investors and everyone else lose, too.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Definitely no crystal ball

  3. pointsnfigures

    http://lemonadeday.org/ Those of us that want to support entrepreneurship should get behind Lemonade Day. It started Gotham Gal!

    1. Gotham Gal


  4. LE

    So I’m reading this and thinking “my dad would have called Joanne a bren fire”. I was raised to believe that was a super motivated go getter, a doer not a talker. Always on the move. [1]I decided to see what the actual definition of “bren fire” in yiddish was.Turns out the word for “fire” in yiddish is “bren fayer” at least according to this reference:http://www.yiddishword.com/%5B1%5D My dad also would recognize your value to Fred. He would have said “she pushed him”.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I most definitely pushed. Fred would totally agree

  5. LE

    Would add to your excellent list that it’s good to be devious and a bit conniving as well.Push limits and boundaries.People who are to much straight shooters or “to honest” have a much harder time. At least from my experience. All this is nuance of course. No clear cut definition.Here is a really minor example of “straight shooter”. Just happened a minute ago in an email.I made a suggestion (as a board member) that our board buy a small present for the two people who work in the management office either using our funds or the condo funds. I just added “our funds” to lubricate the idea a bit.One board member (a college professor) writes back and says “I think using POV funds might be a problem.”A problem?To buy a small gift?What’s going to happen?Who is going to complain? And if they do so what? For a $50 gift?We dedicate all this time (at no charge) and the other owners do nothing (and we can’t even find participants for the board?)Hey, why don’t we ask the condo lawyer for an opinion! Geez.I’ve told this before but I drive in NJ w/o a front license plate. If I get caught I will pay the $85 ticket. (I don’t want to mess up the front of the car.) If I get pulled over (has never happened) so what. Not a problem to me. An entrepreneur says “what’s the downside, what’s the stick” and goes from there.

    1. savvykenya

      you should fix your front license plate though

  6. JimHirshfield

    Still play the guitar?

    1. Gotham Gal

      rarely but I can still play a mean “sitting on the dock of the bay”

      1. JimHirshfield

        Awesome. Never stop rockin’. 🙂

  7. Tiffanie Robinson

    Love this. You definitely have the fire, Joanne. Would you consider writing a piece on investing in real estate soon here on your blog? I am very interested in getting into real estate soon, and would love to hear your thoughts on the market, where it’s heading, etc. Thanks for all of the wonderful words of inspiration and wisdom you feed us 🙂

    1. Gotham Gal

      got my thinking cap on

  8. Liz M-B.

    Hey, I’m a law student who spends a lot of time assisting student entrepreneurs and studying legal issues particular to “startup law.” I hope to work in that space after I graduate this spring. I just came across your blog today while trying to handle a cap table for the first time and seriously, thank you so much for providing your perspective! Insights from a young, engaged angel investor like you are so hard to come by; it really helps me understand the industry. It’s also refreshing to hear an angel get excited about investing in a lifestyle company!AND, I am dying with envy over all the food posts. Ann Arbor has its charms but I miss the city!Thanks again!