Last week ABC’s celebrity investor Barbra Corcoran made her way down from NYC to Gainesville, Florida, to speak at the University of Florida to over 200 students. Corcoran, 73, is a businesswoman and investor best known for investing in over 80 businesses on ABC’s Shark Tank, transforming many of her partners into millionaires.
Corcoran has her own syndicate and fund on AngelList and CrowdFunder. Barbara has mentored thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs, which has given her particular expertise in identifying the personality traits that lead to success or failure.
PS27 Ventures Director of Communications, Christine Caven, had the opportunity to attend the event where Corcoran shared her personal journey, investing advice, and vision for the future of startups.
Person over product.
When selecting a company to invest in, Corcoran looks for founder chemistry over the product they sell. “You bet on the jockey, not the horse,” said Corcoran. Corcoran also shared that she prefers to invest in founders that are resilient and have gone through some hardships sharing that poor kids fail gracefully and have more freedom to be successful. In addition, she looks for passion, energy, and accountability when things go wrong.
She cited working with Cousins Main Lobster as two of her favorite entrepreneurs to work with. Jim Tselikis is skilled at organizing and keeping the team on track, while Sabin Lomac is the charismatic one. “They never give up,” she said.
Stats for Sharks reports that in exchange for $55,000, she received 15% of the business. This represented a bite of two-thirds from the original value of the business, but, as the updates will show, it was worth it for the entrepreneurs.
“Barb has been a mentor and business partner that we could not ask any more of. Beyond putting Cousins Maine Lobster in the spotlight, presenting new marketing options, sharing savvy business advice and growth ideas, she has become a close friend of our family and ours,” reads a statement on the Cousins Main Lobster website.
At PS27 we look for founders who are passionate about what they are doing, because we are hands-on. We like to hear that founders are open to receiving feed back. Everyone in our portfolio we get to know on a first-name basis.
We spend time with the founders on a daily and weekly to provide our services as an extension of their team. These are the characteristics that make a winning team.
You can’t fake leadership.
Reflecting on winning team personality traits, Barbra Corcoran spoke about listening, hard work, and employee appreciation. “As a leader, you work for your people. They don’t work for you,” Corcoran continued, “I would kill myself for my salespeople; when they went up, I went up with them.”
At PS27 Ventures, we look for founders who can receive feedback well, empower their team and have a good work ethic. Through the PS27 Foundation, we also teach leadership skills to entrepreneurs in our portfolio and in the innovation community.
Corcoran emphasized top leadership skills like trust and accountability. If you do anything for your people, they will do anything for you. If you have trust, people will follow you anywhere.
“Good bosses; they made me feel terrific about myself. You can’t fake leadership. If you’re not genuine, your people will know it.”
Rejection Leads to Confidence
During the Q&A portion, the University of Florida read student-submitted questions asking about Corcoran’s experience as a woman pioneering the investment industry. Out of ten of her mother’s children, eight of them became entrepreneurs.
“Coming out of rejection is where you find your confidence. Create a habit of trying, you get confidence in your ability to try, and if you can try, you can win.”
At PS27, if you submit your pitch deck for investment and get a rejection, you have the opportunity to come back to us as your business evolves and apply again. We call these deals boomerangs and like to see that the founder is willing to try again. If we’re a match, we invest! We want to help your startup grow with more than just capital. Our team invests our time and expertise to help your startup level up.
Corcoran ended by encouraging the audience to take out their phones to record her as she did the ‘gator chomp’ for social media and later posted to her Instagram story.
To exit, she left the stage with a final signature line. “And for those reasons,” she said. “I’m out.”