Hiring employees who share the same heart for your business—and letting go the ones who don’t—is one way to cultivate a healthy work culture.
Larry Scheinfeld is a co-founder and a partner at Zelkova Ventures. Larry spends a majority of his time working with companies in the current portfolio to develop funding strategies and customer acquisition plans.
Prior to working at Zelkova, Larry Scheinfeld was a principal and financial advisor for the Quellos Group, a company that emphasized hedge, private equity and real asset funds, alongside specialty and hybrid offerings. Larry Scheinfeld founded the New York office of Quellos and was a member of its Board of Directors until the company was purchased by Blackrock in October of 2007.
Larry currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Starlight Foundation, which supplies quality-of-life programs for seriously and terminally ill children. Larry Scheinfeld also serves on the board of the Forman School and has made contributions to such nonprofit organizations as the Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia and Parkinson’s Foundation, the Eagle Hill School and Cornell University.
Independent of his professional career, Larry Scheinfeld takes pleasure in the arts, playing golf, and fitness training. Scheinfeld presently lives with his family in Palm Beach, Florida with his wife and three children.
Where did the idea for Zelkova Ventures come from?
Zelkova Ventures was founded as a financial solution for talented entrepreneurs looking to grow their companies. My founding partner, Jay Levy, and I both came from separate entrepreneurial backgrounds before starting Zelkova. From these diverse experiences, we bring an understanding of the highs and lows that come with spearheading a business venture from idea to physical—or digital—storefront.
Zelkova’s venture capitalists are not only experts on funding and investing; we roll up our sleeves and work alongside our portfolio companies so that they can see tangible success for their own businesses. Zelkova Ventures offers insights to our clients that are not only of short-term financial benefit, but which assist them in their overall business development, going above and beyond traditional VC firms.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A “typical” day for me does not really exist. The clients, the phone calls, the meetings—they are all different from one day to the next. I don’t have an “8am is reserved for x,” or “3pm is when I do y” itinerary. Instead, I implement measures into my professional life to ensure that each day is productive.
I utilize my early mornings to plan for the day ahead, curating a to-do list of the tasks I would like to accomplish—organized from most to least urgent. Once I have an idea of what my day looks like, I forge ahead and start checking tasks off of my list. However, I am mindful of not allowing these tasks to consume my entire day. I do take mental breaks periodically to avoid burnout and I always take a lunch.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I jot down this influx of ideas and then walk away from my desk for a bit to focus on other tasks without distraction. Later in the day or week, depending on how busy I am, I will sit down and revisit each idea again, paying attention to how feasible they seem once they’ve had time to settle. Some of these ideas have become momentous successes, while others have been crossed off the list and never revisited.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Artificial intelligence and its versatility across industries, including its profound impact on the future of VC. AI is innovating the world of investing and enhancing how portfolios are put together—which ties into our mission to better serve our clients.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Dedicating myself to the completion of all tasks. This might seem counterintuitive and even more time-consuming, but I have found that this helps me to organize and manage my time better. If I know I have more to accomplish, I actually end up getting more done.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Follow your passions. There are a few instances early on where I got caught up in pursuing a path that I was directed towards by other influences rather than my own drive. After I rerouted and started to follow my own passions is when I found success on a personal and professional level.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Pre-revenue companies are often the better route to go when investing over companies that are currently “hot” in the market. At Zelkova Ventures, we watch for trends in early-stage companies that could predict future investment opportunities.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
At the start of each day, I ask myself if what I am doing is the best way to serve my clients. If the answer is no, I need to fix my approach. If the answer is yes, I know I am serving my mission, but I am always working to improve my current strategy and figure out how I can better serve them.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
It’s all about my team. If you want to grow your business, you need to surround yourself with the right people. Hiring employees who share the same heart for your business—and letting go the ones who don’t—is one way to cultivate a healthy work culture. When you build and nurture a talented team, it will help to set the foundation for a prosperous future in business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Over-trusting has caused some setbacks in my entrepreneurial history. I want to see the best in people, so I sometimes turn a blind eye to their shortcomings, keeping them involved with a business for too long. As agonizing as it is to have to go through the process of letting someone go, it is far more damaging to choose to ignore the discrepancies and try to force a professional relationship.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The idea comes from Aziz Ansari’s character in Parks and Recreation—and I know there are a few companies out there that are already doing it—but I think it might be worth jumping into the market for and starting a business that rents clothing for special events.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought a new pair of running shoes. I have made it a priority to set aside an hour of my evenings to exercise a few times a week immediately after work. I’ve found that physical activity helps destress after an especially challenging day in the office, and allows me to focus outward rather than inward.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Evernote has been an organizational lifesaver for both myself and my team. I can record every aspect of my day in this platform.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Every entrepreneur should read “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg. Duhigg presents scientific data for not only why habits exist, but how they can be transformed. When we can harness our habits, we can transform all aspects of our lives—business, personal relationships, etc.
What is your favorite quote?
“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier’ wish you were better.” -Jim Rohn
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Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.