Friday, February 11, 2011
Jason Nazar On Startups, Execution, and Hiring
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Jason Nazar is CEO of Santa Monica-based Docstoc (www.docstoc.com), the online document sharing site, and a fixture at Los Angeles technology events. Nazar--who moderated a panel on the venture capital industry in Los Angeles at Twiistup 8 yesterday, and who is considered by many to be one of the key "super connectors" in the LA technology community--took a few minutes with us to give his advice to startup entrepreneurs.
Given all of the work you've been doing with helping other entrepreneurs out, what is the biggest message you are trying to get to entrepreneurs and startups?
Jason Nazar: There are many different stages of entrepreneurs, but in the very beginning stages, stop thinking about it, planning, and talking about it, and start doing it. What that may mean is, go find a partner, do a set of mocks, hire a developer, just don't sit on an idea for a long time, because you need momentum. If you don't get your idea going and moving, it's probably just going to stay as an idea forever. Once you start building out a product, and raise some seed capital, there's probably one thing that is important to your business. In most people's cases, that's users, in other cases it might be revenue, but figure out what your one thing is, and be obsessive about going after that one thing.
When we started Docstoc, for that first year, I was just obsessed with getting more users and more traffic. That was all that mattered to me. We had to get to scale. Once you get past that, one of the biggest things I learned is that once you're past the stage where it's three or four of you working on the product, take the time to hire really, really great people. It sounds like a platitude, but one person can make the absolute difference in your business. I don't think it's a matter of hiring really, really fast, you need to find people who are really, really great. It's a critical and important part of your business, and if you bring them on, it's going to make the biggest world of difference.
What's the best way to get in front of investors nowadays, in your opinion?
Jason Nazar: Actually I don't think there's an issue. I think that there is so much access to investors now, because you can find them online, through LinkedIn, Facebook, and so many events now in LA. You can also approach people like me, and others, who will be happy to introduce you to any venture capitalist or angel. I think the real question is having something interesting and compelling to approach them with. We talked about this on the panel today. Don't go to an investor with just an idea. Say hey, with very little resources, with very little cash, I was able to accomplish "this". If "this" is pretty meaningful, you're going to get their attention. The trick is, once you talk to them, tell them what you're going to do in the next six months and over deliver on that in a shorter period of time. That's the way to develop those relationships. There are so many events like Twiistup, the events we put on with Startups Uncensored, so if you as an entrepreneur can't find access to capital, you're not worth your weight in feathers.
Are there any local investors you think are particularly helpful for people to know?
Jason Nazar: Our venture capital firm is Rustic Canyon, and they've been absolutely amazing partners. People like David Travers and Nate Redmond. They just spend a lot of time talking to entrepreneurs, even though they might not be doing a deal, because it's just not in a space they're looking at. There's also a fantastic set of angel investors here, like Paige Craig, Kamran Pourzanjani, Matt Coffin, Rick Smith, and Michael Jones.
It seems like there is quite a nice community which has developed here, particularly around you in Santa Monica, wouldn't you agree?
Jason Nazar: Yeah, I think Santa Monica is becoming something like a Silicon Beach. There is whole group of us down there, AffordIt, BetterWorks, DocStoc, BeachMint, and so on. The coolest thing is you can just walk out of your office, and there are a dozen other people doing the same kinds of things you are. You can go grab a drink with them, hang out, talk with them. There is a group of probably twelve to eighteen of us who hang out after work, are all building our companies together, and talk about what's going on, and share resources. It's great.
Finally, let's talk about Docstoc--what should we be paying attention to at Docstoc?
Jason Nazar: Externally, we're focusing very heavily, and going very, very deep into the small businesses space. We're producing our own high quality content--figuring out every single document that a small business owner might need to start, grow, or manage their businesses and professional life. We have a new subscription product that is growing very, very quickly. We're going to be doing original article content, videos for small business owners, just going very deep into the content resources small businesses and professionals need to grow their business and professional life. Internally, we're now at 26 people, and the company is growing very quickly. We'll probably double the size of our company this year. The most interesting thing for me is to keep hiring really good people at the rate of about one or two folks a month.