1. First off, thank you for writing this book. It’s very timely for me and so much more practical than many of the other entrepreneurial books out there. I enjoyed reading about your transition to a 10% Entrepreneur, but what made you decide to finally write this book? And why now?
I wrote this book as a direct result of living through the 2008 financial crisis at a private equity firm within a division of AIG. When AIG blew up, it was chaos. That’s when I decided that I would never put all my hopes in one company again. That’s also when I realized that pursuing entrepreneurship while holding down a day job could serve as an insurance policy for people like myself. Thanks to the falling cost of entrepreneurship, I spotted the beginning of trend that will allow anyone to start something—the barriers to entry to entrepreneurship have declined substantially. This is only going to continue, so I see the book as putting a name to a movement that will continue to reshape how people build their careers going forward.
Once I started telling people about my 10%, lots of friends asked me how they could do the same for themselves. This made me wonder if I should just write everything down and share my experiences that way. Once I did, I wondered if perhaps this could be the basis for a book. I found an agent through a friend and then we shopped the book to publishers. Luckily, around that time, I was credited by Boston Magazine with creating the term FOMO and that helped separate me from the pack and get me noticed by Penguin Portfolio.
2. Of the five 10% Entrepreneur types (angel, advisor, co-founder, aficionado, and 110%), which is the one you are most drawn to and why? Have you been all five? If not, which one have you not been and why?
I’ve been four of the five in the twenty plus projects I’ve done to date. I’ve been most active as an angel and advisor, but I’ve also been a founder, and more recently an aficionado (as an investor in the upcoming London stage production of the Last King of Scotland). I started as an angel because I felt most comfortable supporting entrepreneurs and I didn’t have an idea quite yet of anything I’d want to start. Plus, I was seeing such great deal flow around me that I felt conviction. That also opened the door to me becoming an advisor. I gained experience working closely with entrepreneurs and they introduced me to their friends, some of whom asked me to serve as an advisor. I have also experimented as a founder on a venture that didn’t take off. The great thing is that I lost almost nothing, but I learned a tremendous amount in the process. I haven’t yet been a 110% Entrepreneur because I’m not yet a 100% Entrepreneur. But someday I might just get there.
3. You mention self-education towards the end of the book. What is your opinion on formal education in general and in MBAs in particular? Do you believe they could help one become a better 10% Entrepreneur?
Any tangible skill or degree, whether it’s an MBA, a law degree, or a computer science background, makes it easy to identify things that you can directly bring to 10% Entrepreneur. So in that case, it can be very helpful. I also think that that general management skills and the network that come with an MBA can be helpful as you get started in any new venture, part-time or full-time. That said, most of the people I profile in the book do not have MBAs, so it’s certainly not a pre-requisite.
4. You mention LinkedIn as a great way to grow your network. Are there any other sites that you’ve used and/or would recommend? For example, sites like FounderDating and CoFounders Lab.
Absolutely. Although I haven’t used them, any tool that gives you increased insight, new connections, and access to likeminded people is your friend. You can use them on a schedule that works for you – the key is to then find ways to take these connections and relationships back into the real world and make them work for you.
5. You provide tips on making the most of your time and mention how the side projects should be complementary and not feel like work, but how do you maintain that fine line and not do too much? How do you ensure you keep time for family, friends, exercise, recharging, etc?
This is a very personal calculation, but what I’ve seen is that 10% Entrepreneurs find ways to integrate everything together—the places they go, their friends and families, their passions, etc. The key is to make it sustainable, so you’ve got to make sure that you check in with yourself and those around you and see how it is affecting—both positively, but potentially negatively—the people around you. With any new venture there will be challenges and difficult days, but if you find your 10% causing stress rather than excitement and joy on a consistent basis, it’s time to re-evaluate the situation. You might need to shake things up or ask for help in order to regain balance.
6. What is the one thing we should all do first to become 10% Entrepreneurs? And is there one thing—whether action, skill, mindset, etc.—that is critical and the difference between our success and failure in this transition?
Today, the new barrier to entrepreneurship is mindset. The cost of starting new ventures and the barriers to entry have fallen so much that you don’t need millions in the bank and you don’t need to go full-time. So it’s mindset that can hold you back. That’s what makes 10% Entrepreneurship so great. If things don’t work out, you don’t have to feel bad or feel like a failure. In fact, you learned something in the process. So you can consider it an experiment and not a failure—and you can count your blessings that you didn’t go all in on this one.