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MEET DAVID COLLETTE

WE RECENTLY ASKED DAVID TO ANSWER A FEW QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU GET TO KNOW HIM.

Why did you become an UpTech mentor? 

I really like entrepreneurship and the people and events related to taking an innovation and turning it into a business. UpTech is a rich ecosystem for that to happen.

I have skills, knowledge, and experience that can help with the entrepreneurial journey. Looking back at my first angel-funded startup I realize other than a little domain knowledge I didn’t really know what I was doing. Entrepreneurs can get it done without help but having outside advice and perspective can make things a lot easier.

Tell us a little about your background. 

There are only two things I ever wanted to do in life. First, be a mechanical engineer and second, be a military pilot. So I did both. I like making physical things so became a Mechanical Engineer. I then joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as a pilot. Along the way, I realized I also needed to understand things like marketing, finance, strategy so I got an MBA. It’s a good combination for me as I have the technical ability to evaluate systems and the toolkit to be able to evaluate businesses.

My first angel-funded startup in 1993 built virtual reality head mounted displays and game systems. That was an interesting ride and I eventually transitioned to making wearable computers and augmented reality systems in Silicon Valley just in time to catch the crash of 2000. The startup ended up being what is now called an “acquihire”. My corporate time was with Unilever, Johnson Wax, and Cintas.

I now work for myself to capture the value of my domain expertise for me directly doing consulting and focusing on my own startups.

In my spare time, I am a Fellow of the Explorers Club in New York City and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in Ottawa, Canada.

What is the best advice someone has given you? 

Never give up. That doesn’t mean you can’t stop doing what you’re doing. It means working through whatever it is and getting yourself to the best outcome you can. Using a flying analogy, you can’t let go of the controls whatever happens. You have to fly the plane.

Cash is more important than your mother. Dr. Steve Kaplan, Chicago Booth, says this often. The intent is to stress the importance of cash not minimize mothers. Startups talk about “burn rate” and “runway” for a reason. I’ve seen planes get to the end of the runway and what happens next isn’t pleasant.

What can you bring to UpTech 6 as a mentor? 

  1. Frameworks and advice for entrepreneurial venture strategy, entrepreneurial finance, entrepreneurial selling. While I know corporate marketing, corporate finance, and corporate selling and eventually a startup will need to transition they are not what are needed by early stage startups.
  2. An outside person for a founder/startup team to talk with that isn’t buried in the daily activities of being a startup but has been the founder in a startup.

Why should someone apply to UpTech 6? 

An entrepreneurial ecosystem where everyone is like-minded and focused on transitioning from a startup to an investable business. Being around and working with someone going through the same thing is a great way to improve the odds you will succeed.

What is the best advice you can give a startup? 

Learn to decide and act quickly. The best concept I’ve found is one that Eric Ries embedded into his lean startup methodology. It’s the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, act) and was developed by a U.S. Air Force officer named John Boyd. There are many resources on the internet where you can read more. The concept is embedded into the phrase “fail fast”. Startups should not focus on failing fast but OODAing faster.

What motivates you to be successful? 

Enjoying my work/life balance (see below).

Who inspires you, and why? 

I have a great appreciation for explorers. Whether they are the traditional explorers of old that sailed over the horizon or took a dogsled into the unknown, they are innovators trying to discover and invent something new, or they are startup entrepreneurs trying to create a profitable business from scratch they are a pretty inspirational bunch. There is the chance they’ll never succeed but they do it anyway.

What do you wish you would have known when starting out in your career/starting your company?

I believe there is no such thing as work/life balance. It’s just life. To me that means what you do for a career, or as an entrepreneur, and in your “life” is not separate and you’re best served by making sure you are passionate about it all.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Don’t go too far in a startup without a strong economic model of your business (i.e. how you make money).

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