Entrepreneurial Insights from Silicon Valley Veterans

A founder and an investor walk into a conference and talk shop about business-building

Starting your own business can be a competitive and lonely road, and feeling like you are part of a community is encouraging as much as it is educational.

On the final day of Denver Startup Week 2018, two distinguished Silicon Valley panelists, Matthew Glotzbach and Rouz Jazayeri, spoke to a crowd, sharing advice for entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journeys.

Glotzbach, CEO of Quizlet and former product manager with companies such as YouTube and Google, relayed his experience, while Jazayeri, previously the head of business development for venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins and now co-founder of Catapult Ventures, drew from his investing experience to offer a complementary assessment.

Here are some of the lessons these men shared to go into entrepreneurship with open eyes: 


Investors will likely not take risks on founders they neither like nor trust. Launching a new business is full of risks. Don't be a liability. Create a relationship with your investor. Being transparent about who you are and what you want to achieve will help investors understand and relate to you.

As prepared as investor might like to be, some startups are so unique they lack a wall of research to back up their hopes and aspirations. In those cases, investors don't have the traditional data on which to base their choices. Jazayeri explained he has to go on a gut feeling or a leap of faith when "everything is zero."

Investors care about a founder's character as well as his or her ambition. Jazayeri said investors often ask themselves: "Is this someone we're comfortable rolling our sleeves up and dropping everything [for]?"


Be forthright about your capabilities. Some founders may have both the technical and business savvy  to invest a product or service and build a profitable operation, but not everyone can do both. It's OK if you need help in some areas. Jazayeri suggested a reasonable outlook of what you do well and what you don't do so well.

Glotzbach added when he joined Quizlet, he was impressed by how respectful and humble founder Andrew Sutherland was because he understood Glotzbach offered business expertise he didn't possess. That mutual understanding helped them work together to make Quizlet a viable company.


As Glotzbach put it, you can't just rely on a "good idea on a napkin." Form a sample of the code or build a prototype of the product. Have a physical or digital example of what you want to create to show investors.

This advice largely refers to a "minimum viable product," [MVP] – a sample with the most essential viable elements that allow the idea to be usable. This prototype can be tested and evaluated before it's commercially developed, not only fleshing out the starting idea, but giving founders and investors something to work with.


Businesses aim to solve problems that their customers face. Personally experiencing that challenge means you align yourself with your customers.

"Ninety-nine times out of 100, you have to go and live it," Glotzbach said. "It has to be your problem."

He used the example of an entrepreneur who wanted to build technology for dentists. The entrepreneur had to be immersed in the dental world for nearly 10 years to fully understand how that problem affects them and how to properly solve it.


The startup game is risky. Failure is inevitable, especially in the beginning. Both Glotzbach and Jazayeri agreed experience and confidence are more important than a record of success; it shows you've been around and have tried.

"You're not going to be a Zuckerberg on your first shot," Glotzbach said. "It's OK to fail."

Anna Dunn is a student at Colorado State University, majoring in journalism. She participated in a partnership between the University and ColoradoBiz magazine that brought students from Fort Collins to Denver Startup Week 2018. 

Categories: Management & Leadership