Jack Greco, founder at One Link Ventures who is also a very active angel investor and strongly believes in the power of community. And in this episode we've discussed what is going on the early-stage fundraising world right now, what is Jack's advice for founders who are trying to find best advisors and mentors and much more (that's why episode is so long).
And today's a guest speaker, abject Greco founder as one link Ventures and Jack helped many founders, raise money, completely for free.
And today we'll talk about, you know, find people like Jack, who can help you out, not only with fundraising, but with other parts of your startup.
So, Jack, last he called by, you giving us some background on yourself and on one link Ventures right? And thanks a lot for having me on the show today. I appreciate it.
So, about me, thirty six, I live out in Buffalo, New York. Never really live too far out of western New York.
So, for those that maybe are listening on the other side of the planet a lot closer to Toronto and really close to that falls not close to New York City.
But, you know, I grew up a, a, you know, kind of in a very entrepreneurial family. My father is on business. He was an antique dealer, and, you know, all the kids were playing catch with their dad in the backyard.
I was going to auctions and moving around the antique form. So,
one of the things I've seen is,
I'm a founder first,
most and last,
and a lot of what I do on the ecosystem development or community development side,
people is really around.
Like, just trying to it's a little bit of wisdom I pick or some of the experience that I have with other from, like, easy. Right? You know, spend a little bit of time working with a regional vc's.
You know, I was an associate on a phone for like, five years to start my career with.
It's got to be at least four dozen founders at this point to get their business either up or growing money in the strategy to get a model stuff.
And I've just it's all about repetitions. Right? So, you know, you know, and do this.
Hopefully, you guys will see somebody that cares about the community I live in. I actually have open office hours for a day a week with anybody that's in West door.
And then I occasionally open those up for more of a, you know, for a larger demographic. You know,
and, you know, constantly, if you want me to, I can put one together to throw some open office hours out for the people listen to your Chanel happy to do that afterwards.
Sounds good. Sounds good. Based on my experience, actually, I tried to recommend office hours of our venture studio to my listeners. For some reason it didn't go. So well, so I'm not sure about that. But we'll see.
We'll see we'll get back to that later on, but let's talk a little bit more, you know, let's jump straight into the topic of finding the people like, you know, who are actually ready to support the founders.
Let's first talk about the incentive to do just for free for some sort of share in the company, or for other for any other competition. Sure.
So, I mean, I personally have always done things without expecting anything of return and look, I'm not silly. Right?
I mean, I have to if my mortgage and have had to do that and put food on my table when, when you realize the universe, it has really made up of.
Things like, Karma and when you give you get things back and you don't know from where you realize the good deeds. You do are like, throwing Boomerang, not knowing when they will return but they often do. Right?
So, I mean, I don't I don't take a cut when I help people. So, first of all, I don't say, hey, I will help you. Raise money.
I typically sit down with founders and say, let's figure out what your business needs, because the first thing people say, when you say, what do you need they say cash, and there's usually reason why they don't have the money already. Right? Their plan is incomplete.
They aren't talking to the right people they're not focused on it's business worth people's money and do it. I mean, like like they're and, you know, we go on and off so a lot of times they sit down with people when I go. Look I go. I'm not a professional fundraiser. I'm not a broker.
I don't take a cut of what ends up coming in, like, more times than not. I will walk away and people will decide I don't wanna raise money in.
This might not be the best thing to invest in my own time in and they walk away from it, you know,
so if I've done fifty rounds of fundraising,
I've probably taught a hundred founders out of fundraising,
or a couple of hundred founders out of even do laughs right, and when you think about you go,
what are you,
some destroyer of destroyer laughs and the truth is now, like,
if you've got the entrepreneurial fire and that entrepreneurial spirit,
chances are the first idea you have not the best idea.
Right. And people go I want to be a founder. I'm gonna found that and you go. Oh, it doesn't really work that way. If you have what it takes to be a founder and it's more than just the one need to do it then.
Let's figure out if you're on a venture worthy expedition,
and the journey is worth the investment of of investors money, but the investment of your time,
right so look,
how do you find guys like me guys like me are opportunistic?
You know, like I do want to help companies, you know, for me, I, I've, I'm a founder, I'm a CO founder with two of the guys, they ended up becoming a unicorn. So, financially, I don't need to, at this point worry about where my net feels gonna come from.
What I do have to worry about, is what the world is going to be left to like, or like, with, for my son who's five and I'm thirty six. I'm not that old. Not that young I realize many hands make work.
So, like, I don't do what I do, you know, to make as much money as possible. I probably never would've gotten into venture. If that was the case. You know, I got lucky that I've been successful in that. I do wanna here about the community.
I care about people and I care about leaving a positive legacy. So you got to ask the question differently. Right? I mean, you gotta find people that genuinely care about what the impact of you being successful is. I'm more than just.
You know, you need to, you need to find people that care about the ecosystem. They care about the community they care about legacy right? I mean, I just got done working on a project with TechStars.
Their big sitting is every day you wake up and look twenty years in the future like, Brad felt that I totally believe it. So I'm thirty six when I'm fifty six.
I'm not saying, hey, I'm here. We're I was supposed to be two, twenty years ago. I'm still looking forward as well. So, you know, I mean, most likely guys and women like me, you will find it events.
You will find being mentors, you know, you will find, you know, sometimes we get like, publicity. Like I am with you because I give right. So, and I think, and don't be afraid to reach out. Most of them are not gonna get back to you.
I'm not able to get back to everybody that reaches out to me. I totally preference or preference around. People that go. Hey, I live in Buffalo and Rochester, Syracuse, or hey, I went to college with you.
I'm in the same paternity, or I'm from the same part of Sicily your family is right? Like, you know, trying to find a tie that binds once you find the right target and then at the fourth. Absolutely. That's that's perfect.
Discussion description and differentiation. I mean, you know, finding some ice breaker there. I mean, even if you see that the person is playing soccer and you play soccer as well, you can say, hey, we, both play soccer of course, make it over simplified.
But the point remains, you know, find the icebreaker. So, let's I actually forgot to start with my
standard question about the venture that you're working on right now, which is one link Ventures.
Let's talk a little bit more about what does investing in terms of the stage and the fields.
Sure, sure. So so I, I actually do three things right now. My three main things. Okay.
So one link is a venture studio where the company that I Co founded when I left a handful of the founding tech team, we're interested in being liberated. Right?
They wanted to they wanted to go back to building cool tech and not necessarily, you know, being part of a corporation. And so we kinda came together.
I put a little bit money in and I said, hey, we're gonna find early stage companies and we're going to be the founding team for them.
And so I will be able to put money into this thing called Ventures. And you guys will be able to work.
And maybe a below contract market rate, so something closer to, like, what you would pay full time employees. But so when you've got an early founder that needs to build the first version of the technology, right? Maybe they have a prototype, but it's not built.
And they need a team, they don't just need a technical Co founder. They need a group of guys or women that are able to come together.
And actually build a full stack product.
One link does that it's kind of the technical cofounder for,
for some of these new platform technologies that are coming out,
and maybe lacking,
the financial gunpowder or,
just the right connections to have a team capable of building this initial product. So,
I'll give you an example,
we started it the team as it sits today,
which really came together last summer,
but a year ago,
in that timeframe,
we've built the core initial technology for five startups.
One of those is the CPG company. Wonderful this in the payment processing space.
Specifically about a wish for mediation. One of them is a communication play that actually has hardware and software angle to it.
One of them is a marketplace and a fifth one is well, the fourth and fifth one or both marketplaces. One of them is in a commodity. Good, and the other one is the fifth one is a marketplace where you actually buy and sell connection like communication.
Like let's say, you want to get connected to somebody at Cisco. I could connect you, you would compensate me for that connection. Right?
So these are five companies that the amount of cash that I put into one link is down and I invest through something, the tech team to build a product.
And then they usually get compensated some, actual, mostly equity my venture studio.
I don't know if it's ever gonna be profitable, but I knew that we needed it in upstate New York, cause there's literally no VC in Buffalo right now there's no seed fund. There is no Series a fund. There's no Series B fund.
I mean, we've got some early money. I'm an, with an angel group that I think in total has a million dollars to invest. Not very much. I'm also an L. P. in a group called launching some seed investments, but it's a fifty to seventy five K check.
Usually, you know, which doesn't really get too far. So there's one line Ventures and then I do private investing is like a super angel through qbr Ventures.
Pretty much, only in. So, Cal not focused on not investing in Silicon Valley startups. So I think that's really awesome. Nice work there.
And second question here about one week Ventures, and your other investment activities is, how do you find how would you source your deals?
Basically where do you find those start founders bars street, you know, alleys and street corners. I mean, look, there's smart people everywhere.
Right and and I, so when people see my investment criteria, it's team founder team market, right? Like, that's it right?
Like, I, I need to I refused to put money into a company that I don't want to break bread with the founder or founders and that's a hundred percent where the early stage bet is that you hear about pivoting here about all this changing.
You know, I mean, I raise a flag and say, hey, look, I'm willing to help people, you know, and I've had to put a pretty deliberate process in place. That's like, hey, I'll take a ten minute meeting with anybody. You get every single creature.
I'm coming out of lagoon for the ten minute meeting and then if you say, hey, look, I gave you what I could people trying to sell you stuff to try and do all this stuff but usually I reach out to the ones. I like. I I see some of the special right?
Like, and the criteria I look for is can they be a good leader and when they make it, will they do something good? Right? So, I look for people that already doing something good.
And already, or good leaders, or at least have the potential to be good leaders. You know, that's how I find people. So, you know, up until the pandemic hit, we were hosting the coffee club. There was once a week.
I think I made a half dozen investments out of people I met at the some big,
some of time some of,
the tech teams,
resources at one link some of capital,
all the kinda kinda what they needed,
and I'll tell you what the biggest thing I do is I love to be part of a party.
Right. So, I also talk to other guys that I think are pretty savvy investors that are good judges of character, and then maybe share some of the same I do and I ask them what they're looking at.
You know, I've met a couple of investment to doing that, but mostly they're people that roll around the same places I get out to the nice parts of the city, the crappy parts of the city, the North towns of South towns. Right?
I make sure that I'm prevalent enough and all the different sectors that's something I do. And if I'm there, it just honestly comes down to circumstance and chance, you know, I bump into people I get to know them. I will hardly ever invest in somebody. I haven't known at least six months.
Typically I want on twelve months or more, you know, or they need to be very close to somebody that I considered a confident you know, I will take the people around me, you know, word on some of this stuff. And if it's smells right and they've known them that long and I'm comfortable with it.
Right, I think that's actually a very like, standards criteria in terms of, you know, how long you should have relationship with this founder, or with someone who's close to the founder. And it's usually like, six plus months.
So, if you made the investor, and you're like, can you invest no, so great great point here.
And let's talk about the early stage investments right now what's going on during the pandemic in the beginning everyone pretty much stopped investing and that was the early stage risky projects and focused more on later stage growth stage companies
would see going on now to see the capital going back into early stage investments or not really yet.
I mean, I don't think the investment perspective. I had really noticed that the pandemic one, you know
so I didn't really change course.
I remember when this all started coming down the at,
I had a couple of deals in the work I was working on,
I carried on I mean,
when you take a,
when you take a long term vision on this stuff,
and a portfolio approach,
there's opportunity and everything and one of my biggest investments is in the airline space and I'm,
I'm very confident through it.
You know, the one thing I will say, as soon as a pandemic, you see people's true colors, kinda bullied and shine through. So, University, what did they do.
Did they pull all their poker chips for them, or did they reach out to help the people around them? Right?
So I looked at it as a massive opportunity de risks the thing that I care about, which is character here, you know I know them all. I know what was gonna happen right?
I mean, training I can explain to you right now why all these people are laid off and the and the market's up right?
I can have those conversations because I antific in nature,
but what this really revealed revealed the qualitative aspect,
the character aspect of people,
I've probably done if we say the pandemic hit the middle of March,
I've committed to two L.
P. positions since then in larger groups they carried some of the same kind of, you know, investment
pieces that I followed and probably did a half dozen investments since then. Maybe more, which is about the same rate.
If not even a little bit of uptick from where I was, or what I was before that,
I made a deal a month to date on one kind of guy, you know,
the pandemic look,
it's a people a black swan event right?
I mean, you go to a casino and let, you know, figure out an event to except opposite was the white car.
Oh, but like, you know, and I'm gonna have this is negative and look, it's it's easy for the right out of public markets.
I thought it was very interesting to watch how behaviorally, the public markets, you know, stock market and stuff reacted. During this whole thing.
I'll tell you what this ended up being a boon, the majority, the companies are losing money when they came out with guess what happened they all got two months more runway wonderful, good thing.
You know, I mean, maybe in the long term it's gonna make it a little harder, you know, maybe the evaluation I went in, you know, a year ago, is that the same evaluation I would go in in the same company today. But, you know what?
Like, the truth is with startup, investing it as a kind of bet, I make already that they're gonna win or they're gonna lose. I don't care if I win huge or small and but here's the thing. I know. Exactly. The most I can.
Right that venture investment is like, you know, you go to the stock market and people are like, oh, my God, I might lose ten percent of my money. I'm like, no, I'm fully planning on losing a hundred percent. The question is, if I win, what am I gonna win?
Because I'm not gonna I'm not gonna get twenty percent of my money returned to me.
You know, it was, it was an intentional and deliberate investment in building out the startup environment in an area. You know, I kinda felt like, when they, when I heard about this, I was like, Holy cow somebody's gonna pay me to do the same thing.
I'm doing anyway, right so, but it was really great. I mean, you know, tech search has always been a company that I think has seen the value in a community.
They run a bunch of like, city accelerators that go along with their institutional partner accelerators and look, I mean, you know, how much fertile earth there is out there. Every city can't handle the costs of an accelerator.
But every city can benefit from accelerators work. Because you have a bunch of people we call mentors who are willing to give their time.
We have a bunch of people we're gonna call them founders who are prepared to make these crazy best of their time and their ego getting smash and everything and starting a company.
You've had a bunch of people who are looking for those rocket ship type investment, and maybe also care about ecosystem development right? Like, hey, you know what? I'll get to X return.
I was just talking to a guy earlier today in Chicago, you know, his first accelerator return, two X over ten years, not a home run by any means. Once you figured that these are the type of dollars that are having both a positive return.
Financially, and it was the first time Chicago had a really accelerator is what ultimately turned it into the text arts accelerator out there.
It's amazing to see all these come together because, you know, the truth is people that have a lot of money are gonna die with a lot of money they're not gonna be able to spend it. And I look at I look at money spent is like, potential unpack.
I mean, at some point, we're all gonna tap out of this world that we have. No idea what it zero idea. That is our black one event and it will happen one. Right, but what the question did you do while you were here, and how best to utilize the resources that you have? Right.
And so, the whole TechStars experience was an opportunity to say, hey, you know what? We're all human. We all live here. You know, some of us will be born. Some of us will die every single day. That's all gonna happen.
But let's actually make sure that we in essence something bigger than us in a network in a community in a family right? That and concentrate effort into something. That is bigger than what any one of us, including myself and the two guys.
I Co, founded with who is buffalo's first and only tech unicorn the community bigger than that.
That is a, that is a large baby in, you know, a a much larger pond or a much larger, right? Because it's an early stage company right? Right. Years old.
So, it was really cool experience couple. I made some really lifelong friends in it. I hope they continue on for within and other places.
Obviously a lot of places are not or maybe not looking at investing in the future.
The way that they should be,
but I undeniably think that it had a massively positive impact and here you talk to people in the area, and every city can really benefit the right.
This is going to be a really positive interview. It feels like you live in Los Angeles with that positive attitude.
So let's let's get a little bit more negative here to balance things out unless major mistakes that you see, founders making during the fundraising or maybe even you yourself made back in the days. So, what's the major mistake?
Let's start with you yourself? What's the major mistake you made during the fundraising that you've done in the past? Yeah. Trusted people that I didn't know that.
I'm naturally a very trustworthy person by just,
by the way,
I am just the person I am that works against you not that you should be pessimists not that I'm not that you should assume everything's gonna go wrong.
But the truth is, there's a lot of people out there who are going to try and screw you right?
You know, and a lot of times their names that, you know, and names that you trust, because you've heard them a lot, you know you know, and I try and tell people when you hear an investors name often. That doesn't mean they're great.
Just like, when you hear the word nicotine off, and it doesn't mean that it's a substance, you should trust. Right?
and and you really need to I mean,
there were a lot of times I went against my God, personally,
I don't think this is good and everyone's,
we gotta do it and I was like,
all right let's do it,
and it ended up not being good now,
go for the unicorn and I have not lost the company to code it.
I am extremely lucky. Extremely lucky and I tell people that it is I am much more lucky than I am. Good.
But, honestly, it comes down to who you trust, you know, I see founders all the time they go. Oh, I know this guy or I know this woman, this young woman, and I'm gonna make them an advisor and I'm gonna give them I'm going to give them five percent of my company and I don't know your not.
And they're saying why oh, I got. What's the one we can't see, like, go? You don't make a pay for earn it like, who are they like, they don't care about you like, go find the name that maybe you don't know who's gonna work for it.
Because the truth is, namely takes you so far and look.
Tennessee, I'm gonna tell you right now. Right? Like the world is run by a very small group of people. And if what you're trying to do is crack into that group of the small group of people. You've gotta be wildly successful and stay as close to them as you possibly can. If that's the group you want to be.
I personally do not. Right I personally do not give a s*** if you're a billionaire or a few, or if I can sit next to you and enjoy having a conversation with you on a barstool. That's who I wanna spend my time. Right?
So, I mean, when I think of this whole thing, you know, the biggest mistakes people make every day, are how they spend their time. Right? Money. It's completely irrelevant.
Money is time compressed, but every day you wake up at the same twenty four hours, everybody else is and it's how you choose to spend that time I found to say oh, my God. I got twenty meetings today. I go this stupid. You shouldn't have appointments twenty meetings a day.
You, there's no way in again.
I take a look at I go open you calendar. Let me look at it and I go, dude. Are you really focusing on your company?
This is what you're doing, because everything's from my business cycle, I get it all on your business calendar, but you're afraid to trust people, you're afraid to delegate, you're gonna kill yourself.
You're gonna be divorce your kids are gonna disown you, you're gonna end up, you know, rich guys living in the, in the gutter management is where the biggest mistake founders make, and this, especially counts for, like, the fundraising process.
You know, I I mean, I think the fundraising process is ridiculous. The hardest round raises first round makes the most time you've got the least track record. And the truth is that people are just betting on you.
Right and and so it's tough, because I'm telling founders, you gotta do whatever you can to get through the first round of fundraising, raise, whatever you can as quickly and get back to building your business.
Most people say, a CEO, a founder, and then more.
So, CEO later on should be spending a third of their time all the time fundraising that kills me that that's the way reality has to be it.
It it, it, it absolutely kinda like, destroys me, but when I look at stuff like this, you know, it makes it hard for me to.
To see another way around it. So you need to be very effective very efficient. Realize like, you know, every time you call an investor, it's not a shot on goal. I mean, you gotta make sure you hit the hockey path towards the goal too. Right?
Otherwise, like, it's not gonna be some freak example, right mentors, you know, the old saying is you want to cut down a tree in an hour, rather than sharpen the extra forty five minutes. Alright. Well, thank you very much twenty three. Yup. Yup. That's it. Thank you.
Sorry, I just had somebody drop something off for me. No worries but so.
You know, founders out there, like, the biggest thing you can remember is, like, you are bigger than your business don't make it your life.
I also do not love investing and have not seen a ton of a success with founders that that making their, their, their business. They're one and only right?
I mean, like, if I look at their desk and I don't see a picture of a logo on it I want to. They're not doing it for something bigger.
Right and realize that there are a lot of people in the investment world who, you know, our good people. Right investors aren't all slimy and bad if they pass that you, you have to be positive.
You have to be constructive and plan on talking to somebody. If I'm gonna start another company I gotta go raise money. I'm gonna go to somebody like the, the guy that runs math centers out in Chicago that I talked to today.
I said, because why do you want to go? I want a relationship with you, because in the next, like, two to three years, I'm also raise the fund and I need to know somebody he goes live pretty far out as well. Yeah.
Well, I wanna make sure you really know who I am and I really know who you are if I'm gonna take advice from you right now once you interview. Sure. Just for a second you mentioned that something you have to see on the pitch deck.
If you don't see that thing you will not invest was the thing. I didn't share that part.
No, no, not on the pitch deck if I don't see a picture of their family on their desk. Oh, sure. Alright. Yeah. The pitch deck. No, no, no.
But but, but, I mean, like, when you talk about the pitch deck, you know, like, you know, I, I can't tell you how many pitch decks I look at and right. People people build pitch deck because they want to raise the money and I'm looking at when I go. Where's your team?
Slide? They go in the appendix. I know. There's two slides. I want to look at your team.
Slide your financial financials a completely made up, but they at least give me a, an idea of how you think we're team are the ones that should have looked at this deck. Every face it's on there should have approve this deck.
And if they haven't, they should have been on the slide. And if you don't have a slide, just got six more faces on it between team members, and mentors and advisors. I'm not gonna look at the company. But I don't want to be the first one to look at this.
I don't want to be the twentieth person to look at this run this by a lot of people in order to get an understanding before you get the bite at the app where you're gonna with a guy like me.
Perfect yeah, that's great advice. And that's my standard recommendation as well, you know, before you actually go out to people, you want to raise money from first talk to a bunch of people who, you know, will not invest just to hear their feedback just to follow your deck.
So, here, we're moving on to the last question if this app is a, which is a call to action what's the one thing you want to start to do? As soon as the episode is over.
Hold on one second sure. Sorry my someone's going crazy. You asked me what is the one thing?
Today again, what's the one thing you want to do? As soon as the episode is over? Every founder should have a and let's countably account or something like that. I'm Valley,
I love county and you should carve out at least a half day a month,
four hours a month and hour a week to open up the opportunity to mentor another founder, right?
I'm not saying you get four hours a single founder. I'm saying, go on cowardly, make fifteen or thirty minutes clot, you know, an hour or two week, you know, every single week, and then find a way to get that in front of people put it right?
In your right in your in your signature and say if you're a founder, grab time with me, I want to meet you because one of the biggest things, founders don't do or connect with other founders just don't do off of that. Right again.
I started my career as a founder. Right? I just happened to be an investor along the way and those are the people you wanna get around, right? I mean, for now and what you do in the future like, I've seen you put founders together, they share everything.
They have the little bit that they have. It's like it's like seeing people on a bed that have nothing and what little they have share and all of a sudden they have more.
Right and that's kind of the way it is when you're always a founder get close to other early stage founders in give first in share first. Right? Trust me. It will come back.
when I was early on to helping companies,
I would say,
I need to connect you guys in even groups that you wouldn't think had a lot to do with one another, you know,
all the sudden,
the couple of investors that help one of the companies well, at least take a look at another one of them,
or at least know somebody else or find something interesting or making a connection or find a customer.
Right? A very small interconnected world. And if you're not spending an hour or two, we connected with other founders in an hour, two week proactively, just making connections. Not knowing what's gonna happen.
Then you're not putting enough into the universe to be able to make the connection point to get out of it. So, I would say, set up Countly account.
Carve out an outward week,
if you wanna pay the three hours a month,
they have multiple calendar have one that says for founders and one that says for everyone else and make sure you're and and carve out some open office hours and put them in your signature box and let other people let other people look at it
or in your community you know,
get amongst other founders and get a club together.
Where every Thursday night. Ten of you get together. And one of the company pitches to the other nine. And and and learn from each other. Yeah. You know, like stuff like that, it's, it all comes down to community.
So anything community related that you can do to build relationship is gonna benefit you not just with your company, but in life.
Perfect yeah, that's wonderful advice. And Calendly is free if you do one of them by the way. So I'll leave the link to Calendly and the description of this episode, I'll also leave a link to one link Ventures as well in the descriptions this episode and yeah. Call to action.
Wonderful. You know, I believe that's great. A way to get out there to grow and to succeed.
Eventually just building those connections and that that connection building might take years and years to prove out to be working, you know so definitely. Invest time. Now, it'll pay off later on and we'll wrap it up here. Cool.
Thanks a lot, Jack and have a great day.