99% motivation. 1% experience.
That’s where most—if not all—entrepreneurs start out. And, that surplus of motivation is exactly why Bob Stringer, the newly announced director of the award-winning Summer Venture Program (SVP) at The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, can’t wait to work with the most promising entrepreneurs from Babson, Wellesley College, and Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in this summer’s program.
As founding general partner of Sherbrooke Capital, LLC, a $100 million venture capital firm invested in health and wellness and food and beverage companies, Stringer noticed something interesting: he identified very strongly with the entrepreneurs his company was investing in. He was attracted to big ideas from motivated entrepreneurs who needed help figuring out how to move forward, and, as he continued to invest, his interest and excitement became more evident. Fast-forward through a consulting interlude, and he set out to engage with earlier-stage startups. He now works with a portfolio of more than 30 early-stage technology, health and wellness, and consumer goods companies and their founders as the founder and principal investor of Crimson Seed Capital.
About Stringer’s joining SVP, Debi Kleiman, executive director of the Blank Center, says, “We are so fortunate to have Bob onboard as the Summer Venture Program director, and we couldn’t be more excited. The SVP director is the guide for the student entrepreneurs as they progress on their journey throughout the 10 weeks, contributing immeasurably to their experience. Bob’s enthusiasm for mentoring entrepreneurs during the exciting, early days of their ventures, along with his rich experience consulting and teaching and his extensive network, means that our entrepreneurs will have an incredible sounding board and coach.”
Stringer’s perspectives on successful startups are grounded in an accomplished career as an organizational consultant, author, and faculty lecturer at Babson and Harvard Business School. Along with George Litwin, he developed the concept of organizational climate and went on to write the HBR McKinsey Award-winning book Motivation and Organizational Climate. He also is the author of four other books on culture and business strategy, including the recently published Culture.com: How the Best Startups Make it Happen. In his writing, he explores the intersection between leadership, motivation, and culture and brings to light the impact of leadership on the performance of individuals and organizations big and small.
Similarly, his consulting experience included working with executives from a lengthy list of global companies, including PepsiCo and Bank of America, as well as assignments with early-stage companies. As such, he can offer nuanced advice, based in research and practice, to entrepreneurs who are building their teams and thinking about culture. He also can speak to what’s down the road for these entrepreneurs as they try to scale their ventures.
When it comes to SVP, Stringer is looking forward to mentoring and getting to know the entrepreneurs. He is eager to help them engage with the process of creating value in their businesses during the course of the 10-week program. Of course, before delivering value, it’s important for entrepreneurs to deeply understand the opportunity they are addressing. As Stringer says, “The lack of clarity around where they really want to take their business or venture can be deadly.” Accordingly, he stresses knowing the problem, knowing the customer, and ensuring the connection between “the product and the dynamics of the market.”
While the opportunities and challenges of fundraising may lie farther down the road for many SVP participants, Stringer has insight to offer on that process as well. He encourages entrepreneurs to “go slowly” when it comes to bringing in external investors and to bootstrap it or to fund it themselves for as long as they can. And, as an angel investor himself, he loves to see an entrepreneur who has successfully brought in funding from friends and family. Why? Because the entrepreneur is then highly motivated to make his or her business work.
As the Blank Center prepares to open its application cycle for the 11th year of SVP, Stringer is incredibly curious about the student entrepreneurs who will ultimately be accepted into the cohort, and is excited to work with them. He summarizes it perfectly: “I’m eager to see what I can add and I’m also eager to learn.”
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