(Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)
Leonsis’ chat with1776 co-CEO Donna Harris was full of anecdotes about his first company (a snow-cone popup during the bicentennial celebration in D.C. in 1976), stories about his family and his love of sports and the admission that he’s still working to master the whole work-life balance thing.
He also delivered some interesting insight into the process of entrepreneurship, and the state of the tech industry, from his privileged position of experience. As the large crowd munched on salads and sandwiches from local food delivery startup Galley, Leonsis delivered key pieces of wisdom.
Here are a few highlights:
- Get a job. “It’s good to have, like, a real job before you start a company,” Leonsis told the gathered crowd, many of whom were 1776-based startup founders, as he spoke about his own bio. This is because other work experience lends perspective to would-be entrepreneurs.
- All the support for entrepreneurs has a big unintended consequence. While Leonsis was complimentary about the “welcoming, embracing platform” that 1776 and others provide for entrepreneurs and startups, he made clear that this is limiting in some ways. Because there’s so much support and money for high-growth, unicorn-style startups, we can lose sight of the value of small business. “You don’t have to aspire to be Mark Zuckerberg” to be happy, he said.
- Speaking of unintended consequences… Leonsis is big on thinking about what he calls “the law of unintended consequences.” In creating his yearly predictions, for example, Leonsis takes a look at what’s going on in the (tech) world around him and imagines what issues and/or opportunities will arise because of these developments or policies. Find his 2016 predictions here.
- It’s the jockey, not the horse. When it comes to VC funding, Leonsis is all about betting on the jockey, not the horse. (That’s something we also heard fellow investor Josh Kopelman explain during one of our recent Slack AMAs.) He looks for resilience, but not delusion, and inclusive tendencies in founders. Also, Leonsis spoke favorably about double-bottom-line companies, those that deliver social impact as well as financial return on investment.