"How to Start a Venture Capital Firm." A Skillshare class... taught by a 21-year-old college dropout! Not even a Harvard-dropout, a small-liberal-arts-college-with-a-mediocre-reputation-in-upstate-New-York-dropout. I was skeptical but intrigued.
At the start of class, he had us introduce ourselves and then he introduced himself. Our introductions took about thirty seconds each... his took about an hour! He detailed his journey as a young entrepreneur. Over a two and a half hour time period, I learned almost nothing about venture capital, but I what I did learn was far more inspiring.
Oren Bennett started blogging about startups during undergraduate school. It began to take up so much of his time that he decided to drop out of college, move to New York City and start..."working." Oren set out to network with entrepreneurs like a madman. He attends three or four startup events per night. His networking resulted in meeting with some of the most successful and powerful people in the world.
You would think that someone with relationships with some of the most successful entrepreneurs and investors in the world would have outstanding interpersonal communication skills. Quite the contrary. Oren acknowledges his interpersonal communication skills as a weakness and has decided to ignore it. Instead he has chosen to focus on his strengths. His strengths are his passion for entrepreneurship and his genuine desire and ability to help everyone he meets.
Oren has several other unique philosophies. He surrounds himself with people he considers to be smarter than him in some way but lack traditional experience, believing people with experience in a given field become too close-minded and narrow and often lack the ability to identify and create opportunities.
Oren wants to do something unconventional. And he believes to do one thing unconventional, you must do everything unconventional. Nothing about Oren is conventional. Many successful entrepreneurs throughout history seem to have this in common.
His values and philosophies and his proven track record of helping people he meets have resulted in eight job offers, each one more prestigious than the next, within eight months. Pretty impressive for a 21-year-old without a degree in a tough economy. Passing on the job offers to focus on his long-term goals, Oren is now starting a venture capital firm and a service teaching aspiring angel investors best practices. The best practices are compiled from his network of successful entrepreneurs he knows who have raised money from angel investors.
Higher education has been criticized for failing to provide many of the practical skills that are necessary for success and failing to provoke new ideas that are needed to develop innovative new business ideas. Peter Thiel, an extremely successful entrepreneur and angel investor, has responded to these deficiencies and is taking action by paying selected students $100,000 to drop out of college and start a business.
Many solutions have been proposed and many startups have been founded with the mission to disrupt the practices and methodologies common in higher education. It is my belief that people will continue to perceive value in a college degree until more people who don't graduate from college become successful. People need to take initiative to learn the skills they need to make a valuable contribution to society through independent study and real-world experience like Oren has. Corporations need to start hiring people who don't go to college. More investors need to start funding founders who don't go to college. And we need more people like Oren to become successful.
I believe Oren will one day succeed in creating something innovative and profitable. What that will be, I am not sure. But with his passion and values, he will make something happen. Oren is proof of the value of building strong relationships and has shown how having passion and drive can take you where you want to go. I believe his innovative approach to entrepreneurship and life will be and should be followed by other entrepreneurs and professionals.
Follow Michael B. Fishbein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mfishbein