[quote style=”boxed”]What’s that saying from Edison? “Vision without execution is hallucination…” yeah, what he said.[/quote]

Brandon Zeuner is a co-founding partner at Venture51, a seed and early-stage venture fund in Phoenix, Arizona. He likes to “break stuff” with entrepreneurs as well as invest in them should they be crazy enough to let him. Along side of Venture51, Brandon is active in a technology startup focused in the music & entertainment industry and he advises Growth Panel | Marketing [MO] (marketing tools for marketing planning and management – which he helped co-found).

Brandon has been in tech for over 14 years and has helped start and been part of companies such as ACT! & SalesLogix (Interact Commerce – sold to Sage in 2001), Flypaper (sold to Trivantis in 2011), Plan Plus Online (Franklin Covey) and Sage Software. At these companies, Brandon’s roles have varied across marketing, sales, bizdev, product and front-end design.

When he’s not “breaking stuff” with entrepreneurs, he’s spending time with his family, skateboarding with his son, free-skiing, golfing, listening to music, breaking other things and reading.

Ryan Swagar is an entrepreneur, a husband, a father, a golfer, a skier, a surfer, a guitar player, and an amazing beer drinker.

Ryan began his business career working for a private investment firm managing clients across North America. In 2004, he co-founded a media company that had an innovative approach to delivering online video content.

His most recent venture is an online music technology platform that aggregates social APIs and live webcasts for the music industry.

What are you working on right now?

Ryan Swagar:

At Venture51 we’re focused on two things, working with our current portfolio companies and finding new companies to add to our portfolio. Day in, day out we are immersed in the world of startup!

What does your typical day look like?

Ryan Swagar:

6:30am is a typical wakeup (because that is when my 8 month old son is ready to rock the house).  I scan my emails on my phone, change a diaper (or two), cook my Tim Ferriss egg whites and ham, shower, and have arrived at the office usually by 8am.

Each day consists of different tasks like legal and accounting, but the majority of my day is spent meeting with entrepreneurs listening to startup pitches and looking at online demos.

I always go for an early healthy lunch and am back in the office for the afternoon.  There will be more meetings, emails and reading.

After I leave the office, I try to get a quick workout at the gym or a happy hour meeting, but I always try to be home for dinner with my family and bath-time with our baby.

By early evening I will be back on email and reading any tech news that I missed during the day.   Later in the evening could consist of some acoustic guitar, a few beers, some television with my wife or ipad reading.  When I can’t keep my eyes open any longer it’s a night of sleep to recharge so I can rinse and repeat in the morning!

Brandon Zeuner:

Day starts at 5:30 am with a workout (sometimes the workout slips into the evening). Back from working out around 6:15ish and knock down any urgent emails that crept in overnight. Then it’s breakfast and caffeine while scouring blogs, twitter and other news sources for ideas, startups, new partnerships etc.

Kids get up around 7 am and they make there way to the kitchen bar where I make them a big breakfast and the entire family spends 30-45 minutes talking about life and goals for the day (probably the richest time of my day and it sets me on the right trajectory – pure engagement). Then it’s off to the office to embrace the madness of not just one startup, but many startups. I love it! Depending on the day we could be talking with 10-12 new startups per day and/or working with one or many of our portfolio companies (on strategy, product, design, pitching, intros, partnership, sales & marketing etc).

Evening hits and I head home for dinner and family time. After the kids go to bed then it’s back online working on the business of Venture51. Sometimes we get so lost in our portfolio and talking to new startups that we need to remind ourselves to work on the business. Working on the business is staying on top of macro and micro trends in the industry, marketing, planning for the next generation of Venture51, expanding the network and all of the other things that need attention when working in a fund.

Wind down with my wife talking about the day, life, tomorrow. Read a chapter in a book. Bed around midnight.

3 trends that excite you?

Brandon Zeuner:

Mobile, the Business Internet (particular the “consumerization” happening in the Small to Medium Enterprise) and Startup Velocity (the ability for entrepreneurs to bring a companies to market, better, faster and cheaper.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Brandon Zeuner:

What’s that saying from Edison? “Vision without execution is hallucination…” yeah, what he said.

What inspires you?

Ryan Swagar:

So many things: my family, traveling, meeting new and interesting people, the beach, reading, skiing, golfing, doing. yup, the best inspiration is just doing! Nothing like that feeling you get after you knocked something off your list.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Brandon Zeuner:

Biggest career mistake was spending more time than needed in corporate when I really wanted to be out in the startup world. I learned how to convince my wife how damaging corporate could be on a marriage. 😉

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Ryan Swagar:

This is more business advice than and idea, but the best thing entrepreneurs can do is surrounding themselves with the best mentors at their inception.

Mentors are key to success. Especially those who are experienced in your domain.  They help with capital formation, company formation, business issues, founder issues, product, market, marketing, customer acquisition, legal and all the things that only come with experience.  Much needed when building a company.  For example, if you’re focused on building a subscription based service that has a freemium component, then go and find the best mentors that have built massive businesses in that space using that model. Mentors bring years of experience (both failures and success) and the value they can bring is priceless.  That being said – it’s also ideal to have mentors/advisors invest a small amount of capital into the business as this speaks volume for credibility and gives them more motivation to help your startup succeed.

What do you read every day? Why?

Brandon Zeuner:

I bounce between TechMeme, Twitter and Reeder. yup, still using RSS.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

I’m a big Churchill fan so, Churchill: A Biography

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

Brandon Zeuner:

Things for Mac/iOS is my tool! Super useful.

Ryan Swagar:

Rdio! Love me my music.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Micah Baldwin from Graphic.ly. Great dude! (disclosure, we’re investors).

Why Phoenix, Arizona for a Venture fund? Why not San Fran or New York, or even LA for that matter?

Ryan Swagar:

Geos for investors don’t matter as much anymore. We’re geo agnostic though the higher concentration of our companies exist in SF, NYC and LA. That being said we have investments all over including Boulder, Philly, Boston and Phoenix. We’re close enough in Phoenix but far enough away to our companies to give them the right amount of creative space they need to innovate and execute. When they need us we are within a day to get to them or we just fire up Skype. The great thing about Phoenix is we can retreat from all of the meta that exists in those geos and do our own thinking.

How does someone get you to invest in them?

Brandon Zeuner:

We invest in technical teams solving real problems who are super high-centered on user experience. These  products need to be in some of the more promising higher growth segments of the Information technology market and fit into our developing themes around native consumers & digital families, mobile life, business, consumerization, real-time data, new commerce & new economics and plumbing. It helps if you get referred through our network of advisors, mentors, co-investors and/or founders) but that’s not the rule. Make sure your product/prototype is working (no ideas) and we can put our hands on it. Not much more to it!


Venture51 Website – http://venture51.com
Venture51 on Facebook – http://facebook.com/venture51
Venture51 on Twitter – http://twitter.com/venture51

Brandon Zeuner
Brandon Zeuner on Twitter – http://twitter.com/brandonzeuner
Brandon Zeuner About.me – http://about.me/brandonzeuner
Brandon Zeuner on LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/in/brandonzeuner

Ryan Swagar
Ryan Swagar on Twitter – http://twitter.com/ryanswagar
Ryan Swagar About.me – http://about.me/ryanswagar
Ryan Swagar’s Website – http://ryanswagar.com