Serial Entrepreneur Matt Coffin Says Go “Absolutely All In”
At the Summer Venture Showcase, successful serial entrepreneur, investor, and Blank Center Advisory Board Member Matt Coffin ’90 joined our Executive Director Debi Kleiman for a fireside chat about venture capital. Matt was the CEO and Founder of LowerMyBills.com, which he sold to Experian for $380 million. He went on to found other companies and to become a full-time investor. Through his investment firm Coffin Capital, he has made investments in over fifty early stage digital companies.
Though Matt may be self-effacing – “I wouldn’t consider myself really fantastic at seeing what’s next” – and told us that he passed on investing in Pinterest, he shared really valuable insights from his experiences as both entrepreneur and investor.
The Ideal Investment
When Matt meets founders, he knows exactly what he’s looking for: “The main thing that I am looking for is someone who is really gritty.” Noting how challenging and intense the entrepreneurial experience is, Matt stressed the importance of having “this built-in grittiness” in order to survive the ups and downs.
Another quality Matt looks for is a “secret” – a different view on or insight into a problem. Matt mentioned a few of his recent investments – SureSale, MoneyLion, and a venture that provides bloodbanking for pets – as examples of founders with unique perspectives and deliberate strategies. “In all those cases, the founder is, I feel, really gritty and very thoughtful. While they may not have all of the answers, they’re very thoughtful about: ‘Here’s what I see happening and here’s what I think is going on in this market.’”
Matt went on to add: “They’re super focused.” He warned about the dangers of doing too many things: “Generally, companies do not die of starvation. Companies die of gluttony. They are doing too many things all at once and it’s not possible to do that and do any of them well.” Matt stressed the importance of aligning your team around what you’re doing – and also around what you’re not doing. There is just as much value in delineating what you’re not doing.
The Ideal Investor
On the flip side, Matt offered some insight into what the ideal investor should look like. First, your ideal early investor should show passion for what you’re doing.
Second, your investor should be vertically focused, meaning that they know your market and know your issues. Not only can they provide a lot of value, their investment in you can actually serve to validate you and send a message to others.
Finally, you want your investor to be “a connector for other money.” You need someone who already has experience raising money and doesn’t mind helping you do it.
Matt offered succinct final words of advice for the audience of entrepreneurs: Go “absolutely all in” on your business. Why? Because that’s what your competitors are doing.
He added one last tip: Listen to and talk with everyone, pay attention, and “pick a nugget up.” Your job as a founder-CEO is to piece together all of these nuggets of information into actionable information that can impact your business.
Did you miss the Summer Venture Showcase? Check out BostInno’s coverage for a recap.