Brian Shields – Co-Founder of #IncubateNYC

[quote style=”boxed”]Failure crosses my mind at least once a day.  I believe that the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is in how one overcomes negative thoughts.[/quote]

Brian Shields is co-founder of #IncubateNYC, a product development venture in partnership with Google, Columbia University and Abyssinian Development Corporation.  #IncubateNYC pairs corporate innovation needs and mentors with entrepreneurial talent and technology to solve issues relevant to urban communities.

Prior to #IncubateNYC, Brian worked in investment banking, private equity and business development and product development for a large corporation.  In addition, he continues to compete in endurance races, most recently completing an Ironman 70.3.

What are you working on right now?

We are working on creating an institution that facilitates corporations stepping outside of their 4 walls to engage the amazing minds and talents of startups nationwide to collaborate and solve global issues faster.

Where did the idea for #IncubateNYC come from?

We know that a big component of successfully partnering corporations with startups is providing the right level of access and resource support to the startup to meet the demands of the corporation.  As such, we thought that in addition to being the experts at sourcing startups based on corporation innovation needs we wanted to be experts at accelerating an entrepreneur’s business development process so he/she has the highest probability of growing their startup, gaining large clients and ultimately becoming a long term business entity.  We know that new companies are the way to create growth in jobs and the economy. We see our strategy of matching corporate innovation needs with startups as a way to ensure that large customers can easily find the new products that the entrepreneurial world has innovated, thus turning ideas into sustainable businesses of the future.

What does your typical day look like?

Typical isn’t in my vocabulary anymore.  What I try to do is wake up and ask myself, “what do you want today to look like?” This usually means I need to create some value, so I sketch out the tasks to accomplish for the day in the context of the near and long-term goals. Then I start attacking them.  It could be anything from taking investor meetings, conducting customer interviews to learn more about how they think, researching new technology trends or going on a long run to clear my head and meditate.  The gift and the curse of entrepreneurship is that no 2 days look the same!

How do you bring ideas to life?

Generally, I like to say “start and endure.”  It doesn’t matter how right you are on the first, second, third or even tenth try. But you can’t make a dream a reality unless you start building it and stay with it through the inevitable hard times.  The important thing is to start the race and endure through the journey.

Personally, I like to sketch things out.  I am terrible at it, but putting my ideas down on paper, especially in picture form, forces me to think about them, deeply understand them and simplify them so they are tangible.  Once a thought is free from your mind and in the tangible world, it’s much more likely you will act upon it.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The fact that people are finally, truly angry that healthcare is so inefficient.  Anger and discomfort inspires change and growth in any context. In healthcare, there is a wide open opportunity for tech to improve the system.  I actually saw an MS-DOS program running patient results at a diagnostic lab.  MS-DOS!  The fact that this industry, which my parents have had to depend on to get them through serious medical issues, has been antiquated for so long is deeply disturbing to me.  I am excited to see more smart people turning their creative energies toward improving it for everybody.

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

The worst job I ever had was my first job, working at a bagel shop.  I had to get up at 4:30 AM to be at work on time. I worked in a cramped and hot kitchen with a bunch of undocumented workers who were crass and crazy. And, the majority of customers had entitlement issues.  I learned the true meaning of earning a dollar and it forever defined how hard work really could be.  Sitting at a desk for 15 hours a day is nothing compared to getting your arm burned reaching into a bagel oven for 10 hours straight.

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

I would start earlier.  I had a gut feeling that entrepreneurship, and specifically early stage investing and developing entrepreneurs, was the path I wanted to be on.  I would have committed to that earlier and started building my specialization specifically to that end.  My expertise would be more developed if I had.

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

I take a moment at the end of every day, week and month to ask myself, “what did I actually accomplish?”  This keeps me focused on the things that create value and help me assess how I spend my time.  Time management is one of the most important elements of being an entrepreneur because there are only so many hours in a day. Your goal should be to maximize the value of how you spend those hours.  So every action should be adding value—sales, fundraising, developing expertise, whatever.  Monitor your time burn as well as your cash burn.

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

I have a strong belief that social media is going to move from enabling us to live our lives online to connecting us online in order to engage with real humans offline. is a prime example of this.  If I wasn’t working on my current venture, I would be developing a social community platform that enabled people to find out who is cooking home cooked meals nearby at any given moment. Then I’d connect people so they could meet over a home cooked meal in someone’s house or apartment.  I am constantly hungry and would love to meet new people over good food!

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would encourage more interracial relationships.  I find that interracial children have a much more balanced view of the world and understand on a basic level how to bridge divides between viewpoints and cultures.  People of the world would find more ways they are alike than different if we were all mixed.  The most prolific unifier of our time, President Barack Obama, is biracial.  You can’t deny  #TeamBiracial!

Tell us a secret.

Failure crosses my mind at least once a day.  I believe that the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is in how one overcomes negative thoughts.

What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?

  •  Oftentimes I have a ton on my mind and my attention span for reading articles and documents is limited.  I use this tool to blast through articles, force my brain to speed read and stay focused.
  • I love the LinkedIn news aggregator.  It consistently pulls relevant articles and information for the industries I care about and makes it easy for me to stay up-to-date.
  • Google Maps.  Sometimes I just get lost.

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

There are plenty of books on entrepreneurship, but I would actually recommend a video.  Steve Blank’s lecture on how entrepreneurship actually works, entitled Why Accountants Don’t Run Startups . It influenced my views on how and why to be an entrepreneur.  The best part is it’s free!

What’s on your playlist?

Right now, I am playing the Sorry for Party Rocking album by LMFAO on repeat.  It’s a happy and positive album, which helps keep me positive so I can deal with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  • @IncubateNYC: If you want to follow the development of a technology incubator by startup people for startup people, then this is the account to follow.  You will see something created from literally a raw space to an amazing institution in urban communities.  This is my shameless plug.
  • @FAKEGRIMLOCK: This dude (excuse me, giant robot dinosaur) has had some amazing posts on several very well known VC blogs that really get to the heart of entrepreneurial life.  The art he makes is unique and moving–and his tweets are just plain funny.  This guy motivates me to be more awesome.
  • @BorowitzReport: A political headline-focused comedian who balances wit with pure and crass hilariousness.  In the hard world of entrepreneurship, a good laugh goes a long way.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

When my co-founder and I were swapping war stories about the difficulties of fundraising. I said that it’s so hard out there “shaking my booty for change.”  He said, “that’s your problem.  You shake it for change, I shake it for dollars.” Offensively loud laughter ensued.

Who is your hero?

Spiderman.  The dude keeps saving people but has real life problems.  It’s easy to be a superhero when you have billions of dollars.

What skill do you find most important to being an entrepreneur?

Sales.  Hands down.  People think entrepreneurship is the way to independence and freedom because you get to be your own boss; but no matter what your venture, role or position, the ability to communicate a vision clearly and in a compelling manner is the path to true freedom.  Only then can you influence the world around you to be what you see it needs to be.

If you were a burrito, what type of burrito would you be?

Tropical Paradise burrito.  All the flavor of the beaches and islands you love with the practicality you need for hustling!


Brian Shields on Twitter: @BrianLeeShields