I’m a big believer in planning. If you know where you want to go, you can achieve an objective with a strong plan.
David Ehrenberg founded Early Growth Financial Services in 2008 to address the lack of on-demand financial support available to startups. His passion for mentoring entrepreneurs and guiding early-stage startups prompted David to construct EGFS’s integrated financial solution, which includes day-to-day accounting and strategic financial, tax, and valuation support.
After graduating from Georgetown University with degrees in accounting and finance, David began his career on Wall Street doing mergers and acquisitions for Deloitte & Touche. He then earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Washington.
These days, David is charged with expanding EGFS’s service offerings, expanding into new markets, and forging strategic relationships. He relishes time spent with enthusiastic founders and helping them raise the funds necessary to help their companies prosper.
Where did the idea for Early Growth Financial Services come from?
I was really interested in working with early-stage companies, and instead of working with a single company, I learned that I could mitigate the risk that comes with working for an early-stage startup by working with multiple startups at the same time. Also, I found that similar companies at the time weren’t providing a professional level of service and structure to early-stage companies. So I saw an opportunity to bring a lot of value to the startup ecosystem.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
My time is broken up into three primary areas: running the business across all departments/functions, business development/maintaining relationships, and speaking engagements/outreach to founders and entrepreneurs.
Staying productive is a juggling act; it can be tough. It’s important for me to stay focused on parts of the business that need my input or assistance. This is always a moving target, so staying plugged into various functions of the business is key.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a big believer in planning. If you know where you want to go, you can achieve an objective with a strong plan. Whether it’s starting a business, expanding a company, or embarking on a new project, it is critical for me to have milestones and end goals in place.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’ve been saying a lot lately that we are 10 years away from living within the science fiction of my youth. I’m more bullish on technology now than I have ever been; we are so close to being in a different world due to technology. Right now, I really believe in virtual reality, AI/robotics, and wearable tech. The confluence of these advancements is going to be amazing.
What is one habit that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m very disciplined in my approach to business development. At our firm, we are very big believers in the “Never Eat Alone” philosophy. It’s about identifying your top super-connectors and staying in front of them. Maintaining this discipline has been very crucial to our success.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I was a controller at Microsoft for three years. By the time I joined, Microsoft had 56,000 employees; there is a lot of inertia that comes with a fostering innovation of a company that size.
There were a lot of hoops to jump through, which anyone who has been in management at a company that size understands. What I learned is that I want to feel like I have an impact and an influence on what I’m doing, which is much more rewarding.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’m proud of how far EGFS has come since 2008. I think the main thing we would do differently is retooling our strategy for expansion.
A couple of years ago, we went full steam ahead into expanding outside of the Bay Area into each major startup hub in the U.S. What ended up happening was that we got a little ahead of ourselves by trying to conquer multiple markets at once, and it cost us in time and efficiency. Doing it again, I think we would expand into one — maybe two — markets at a time, establish a presence, and move on to the next target.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do repeatedly and recommend others do, too?
We are big on “The Lean Startup” methodology, which involves a lot of planning. It also means a lot of iteration and continuous process improvement. Entrepreneurs should always be mindful of what is going on with their businesses. They should ask themselves if their businesses are still on track to goal, and what needs to happen if they aren’t.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We’ve always had a real interest in quality control and adding value to our relationships. When I came into the startup world, a lot of accounting companies just acted as staffing agencies that dropped in a CFO to do the necessary work.
These days, you see a lot of SaaS types that offer to account around a DIY- model. We have a complete approach to our clients and the services we offer. All deliverables go through a rigorous audit on quality and accuracy for each and every client.
What is one failure you have had in business, and how did you overcome it?
During the expansion phase I mentioned previously, we had a couple of instances where we got too aggressive trying to tackle everything at once. We didn’t take into account what would change as the result of rapid scaling (e.g. policies/procedures, marketing plan, operations/infrastructure), and we ultimately had to stop and evaluate our entire plan.
At that point, we decided to iterate. Goals were changed to be more manageable, and a new plan was put into place.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
If I was an entrepreneur right now, I would focus on virtual reality content. The hardware portion is beginning to take off, building a true VR infrastructure. I would create a VR studio that created films, games, and more in that space — it’s going to be huge.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Cloud-based tools for ourselves and our clients such as Quickbooks, Expensify, Bill.com, and Zoho. Using cloud-based services forces you to have strong audit trails, and they force you to have great controls.
What is the one book you recommend our community read, and why?
It depends on what you’re staring down next as a founder. If you’re looking at improving upon your business development strategy, I’d recommend “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz.
If you’re starting a company in the venture capital ecosystem, read “The Art of Start” by Guy Kawasaki and “Inside Silicon Valley: How the Deals Get Done” by Marc Phillips. If you are operating/running a technology company, read “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
This is a tough one. There are many people who have influenced me in a variety of ways over the years.
At one time, I was reading a lot of biographies about world leaders, business icons, and rock stars. The common trait found among all these people was a strong work ethic focused on achieving a certain result, whether it was The Beatles, Lyndon B. Johnson, or Lee Iacocca.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.