Entrepreneur, Explorer, Angel.

Sometimes all at Once.

16TH February 2010

Business Tricks - Culture

Three experiences that define my business mind, such as it is…


Marketing for Capital Express... a TV show

Capital Express was one of those projects you just wish you could be involved in every day: exciting times, interesting deals, wonderful people, great challenges, and a happy ending. The facts were as follows: Warren Struhl and his brother Teddy sold Paper Direct and decided to put some money to work financing early stage entrepreneurs. They had always been short on their way to the top, so why not find others. Made sense. As their very few partners, they chose a wonderful workaholic worrying warrior named Niles Cohen, and a nutty deal flow guy, which would be me.

We made a dozen investments, convinced they would each make us many times our money. We were so wrong, and so right. Many of the deals drove us crazy, many were total losers, and a few were excellent “learning experiences”. And then there was the one that we thought was headed for the grave, made a sharp left hand turn, broke a virtual monopoly and hit an IPO high water mark of ~$4B. It’s register.com, and you can look it up. We did “Better than a sharp stick in the eye, as they say”.

Today, I count among my best friends and most respected business partners Warren, Teddy and Niles.

MoneyHunt was crazy fun, where you never knew what would come next. Face it, it was a marketing idea for Capital Express. They were crazy enough to believe I could pull it off, and I was crazy enough not to listen to any of the TV rules on the way in. And it worked.

I am humbled with the performance of a small team of people that built that vision into something that has helped countless entrepreneurs and dreamers get their arms around what it might be like to run a small business in America. For that, I owe Tad Jones, Deb Ely, Cindy Grogan, Blair Tardino and Cliff Ennico my humble gratitude.

I for one don’t mind catching a rerun on WLIW every once in a while and pointing at the screen to say “I made that”. And so do they, I suppose.

The question I hear quite often these days, with reality TV going nuts and Trump (which way does that hair really go?) yelling “you’re fired” would be “When would you do that show again”. Being a deal guy, who is quite busy these days, my answer remains “for the right deal, I’m in”. Meantime, I am consumed with my passion: Vaux.

Vaux les Ventures, LLC …First, right off the bat, I named it this because people have trouble saying it and I like to watch their noses crunch up when they are trying to say it for the first time. You’ve got to remember I am person a generation removed from a Pennsylvania coal mine who spent the first 14 years of his life thinking Pittsburgh was Mecca and the Steelers were culture. I got hooked on France during a semester abroad, and I have lived that phrase “all men have two countries, theirs and France”. So, after the recent unpleasantness, I was looking for a name. And yes, I can name businesses, Money Hunt and Capital Express I submit as exhibits A&B in that regard. So I’m hanging out at Melun and it hits me: VLV means, really loosely, “worth the effort”. And it’s the happy homestead of one of France’s great financiers, Luis Fouquet. He banked the King. Did so well, the King jailed him. I decided I would shoot high in my role model, so I chose Nic. Much more of this at www.vauxlesventures.com.

The tough pronunciation (Hint; say it like O-Lay) hasn’t hurt business. I really enjoy the process of finding an entrepreneur that stands out from the crowd in some way, adding value to the equation with capital and expertise, and watching the project come to a boil. I love to cook, and it’s a heck of a lot like that. You can read every cookbook in the world, but the best way to gain meaningful experience is to get in the kitchen and try things that have worked before.

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