Brian Botch – Founding Partner at Tricent Capital

I always try to be where I am. I’m not talking about location, necessarily, but rather about focus. No matter where I am, I try to be present in the places and moments in which I find myself.

Brian Botch is a founding partner at Tricent Capital, a venture capital firm based in San Francisco, California, that makes data-driven investments to deliver frequent, consistent, and rapid returns for investors while creating life-changing economic events for founders.

Brian developed Tricent’s proprietary Fundability Score, which uses statistical modeling to determine a company’s potential success as an investment opportunity. As a successful angel investor, he has 16 years of experience advising senior executives at companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 brands on technological initiatives and user experience.

Where did the idea for Tricent Capital come from?

When Adam and I started planning Tricent, I loved the idea of bringing a new model to an old industry. Many investment companies serve themselves first, but we knew we could improve the experience for founders and investors by putting their needs before our own. We’d heard the horror stories from both sides, so we set out to learn as much as we could about what’s broken, why it’s broken, and how we might fix it.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

The biggest consistency between my days is that they start early. I’ll typically brew a strong cup of coffee at 5 a.m. and go for a morning run. I then get the kids up, help my wife get them ready for the day, grab breakfast, say goodbye to my family, and head to work.

When I’m working at the office, my days involve meeting potential investors, tweaking code, supporting product launches, evaluating startup technologies, and running our operations team.

I keep my days productive by getting organized the night before. Before bed, I think through my next day’s priorities and create an action plan to accomplish them.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’m a tinkerer, so I constantly experiment and change things. I love getting my hands dirty, designing, throwing away unworkable concepts, and starting over until I get it right. Once I’ve found a solution, I — in the words of my grandfather — keep my shoulder to the wheel.

Sometimes, I have to accept that an idea isn’t right for the world, but I think many people give up too quickly. That’s a big mistake. Setbacks happen, and every day is about figuring out how to deal with them.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Lots of trends excite me, but perhaps the most interesting to me is how many Millennials are turning toward entrepreneurship. If they can’t find the job they want, then they’ll make it.

Making one’s own way is something that I think our society lost over the last generation, so it’s great to see that entrepreneurial spirit make a comeback.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’ve stopped reading my emails first thing in the morning. I noticed that when I’d begin my days in my inbox, my plan for the day would be shot and I’d start from behind.

Now I start working on what I need to accomplish as soon as I arrive at the office, then I check my email around lunchtime. For tasks that can wait, I send a note that I’m working on the sender’s request and provide a deadline when he or she can expect to hear back. I always block time immediately after lunch, though, to deal with more pressing matters.

At the work day’s end, I check my email again to update the next day’s plans. After work, I don’t look at email because it takes me away from where I am and what I’m doing. I fall off the wagon sometimes, but every time I do, I regret it. I once missed my daughter hit a milestone because I was staring at my inbox.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I’ve had plenty of unpleasant jobs, ranging from being the fry chef at an Arby’s to handing out coupons at the gates of Six Flags to digging ditches for a plumbing company in Texas.

Each experience brings a new perspective, though, and I’ve come to realize that opportunities are always there, even if they’re tough to spot. The ditch-digging job, for example, helped me break into the trenching business, which then set me on the path toward entrepreneurship.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

You know, sometimes I think about redoing everything. I’ve made so many mistakes over the years.

But in the end, I’d probably redo nothing. I really like the person who I am today, and I wouldn’t be that man without making the mistakes that led me here. I’m a better person, husband, father, leader, and businessman than I’ve ever been.

Like all of us, I’m flawed in more ways than I can count. But that’s what makes me a unique human being, so I wouldn’t change a thing.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I always try to be where I am. I’m not talking about location, necessarily, but rather about focus. No matter where I am, I try to be present in the places and moments in which I find myself.

I’ll admit that it’s been difficult for me. Cell phones are in every pocket now, and when I’m engaged in a project, I have trouble thinking about anything else.

But before I made an effort to be present, I felt like I was missing out on life and not giving others the attention they deserve. Distraction has become so much the norm that people are actually surprised when I meet with them and never look at my phone.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I don’t know if I’d call it a strategy, but I try every day to be bold — to step out of my comfort zone and go for “it,” whatever “it” is at the time.

When Adam and I first started Tricent, we traveled to several entrepreneurship conferences to network. At one conference with about 1,500 entrepreneurs, we were the only investors in the room. Out of nowhere, Adam stood up, got everyone’s attention, and announced who we were and what we were doing.

I remember every eye in that room locking on us. After the event, we talked for three hours with founders, many of whom had taken investments, and gathered invaluable information about their businesses.

More recently, we created an educational series on angel investing. We had it professionally filmed, scripted, and produced, after which we gave it away to more than 250,000 angel investors. Not only was our company name on it, but so were our personal names.

I try to never let fear of failure freeze me in my tracks. You have to be bold, stand out, and take a hit or two if you want to make a difference.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Just one failure? Isn’t entrepreneurship synonymous with failure?

I once ran a technology consulting company for small businesses. One part of this was looking at SEO values, site attractiveness, UX design, and more in regard to their web presence.

Every day, I used a niche web application framework to architect their sites. Then, seemingly overnight, it became obsolete. I was left to support dozens of companies running sites on out-of-date code. Ouch! But I picked myself up, adopted the new standards, and migrated all my clients’ systems.

When you fail, acknowledge it, and try not to fail too hard. I build escape ramps into my plans so that when a project goes south, I can cut my losses.

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

One day, someone will figure out how to do analytics and reporting using natural, everyday language — not in the clunky way some have done it now, but in a seamless, answer-my-damn-question kind of way.

Thanks to advances in machine learning and AI, I think we could be there in the next decade. I know big players like IBM are working on it, but I would love to see some scrappy entrepreneur beat them to the punch.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I delivered my third child, a beautiful little girl, in my living room. The experience was exciting and scary, but it was also the most glorious gift a father could ever receive.

I’ve heard people talk about time slowing down in traumatic situations before, but I never understood it until my impromptu delivery. I felt like I was seeing and hearing everything in the room at the same time while focusing on an infinitely small but infinitely important task: ensuring that this little baby made it safely into the world.

When the little girl landed softly in my hands, I said a silent prayer that she’d be breathing. When she started to cry, I felt immediate relief and joy. I grabbed a towel, wrapped her up, and handed her to her mother. I couldn’t get the smile off my face for days.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I believe in using software for what it was designed for. I know plenty of companies that try to make a single program do everything for everyone in their organization.

At Tricent, we use lots of different software, but we don’t marry ourselves to any one program. For example, our analytics platform is built on Python and R; our internal web apps use Node.js; and our public facing website runs on WordPress. We made each choice for a reason, so each platform does the job it was designed to do exceptionally well.

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

I try to read a book each month, but with three kids, a business to run, and other hobbies, I don’t always get there. I’m a student of history, and I love nonfiction and biographical literature. If we study the past, I believe, we can learn tremendous amounts about mistakes to avoid in the present world.

One book that profoundly changed how I think is “The 5,000 Year Leap”. A friend gave me a dog-eared copy years ago, and I’ve since given copies of it to many people. The book made me think deeply about the world and what it could be — or, more accurately, what it should be.

If you’re curious about why the U.S. has such an entrepreneurial culture and how the nation’s founding primed us for innovation, this book is for you.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Historical thinkers like Adam Smith, Cicero, Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, Thomas Paine, and Abraham Lincoln have made me who I am today. More contemporary people, too, have influenced me: Simon Sinek, Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell, Seth Godin, and Bob Burg, to name a few.

Having said that, those closest to me have probably influenced my thinking most. Two of my uncles lead Fortune 500 companies. One grandfather was a serial entrepreneur, and the other knew finance better than he did his own face. My aunts taught me about kindness and compassion. My father is a former U.S. Marine and mechanical genius who taught me how to think, solve problems, and stand up for myself, while my mother taught me how to be emotionally strong and to fight for my principles.


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