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Angel Investor Series – Blair Heavey

Hi, I’m Blair Heavey. I’m principal of Heavey Advisors. We help, advise, be on the board, and then invest in start-ups.

Tell Us About Your Journey

My journey started with big companies, primarily Hewlett-Packard. Had a great time there, and was the youngest VP in that group. And then I decided that one of my friends wanted to bring me into a start-up company. And the start-up company was electronic commerce. I didn’t even know what the heck electronic commerce was at that point, but I was amazed by the progress.

That was a company called Open Market. Open Market we brought public and grew that company up. Twenty companies spawned out of Open Market. One of the next ones I went to is a company called Be Free, affiliate marketing. We brought that public as well. And I just became totally psyched and enamored with start-ups and I decided that this was the thing that I was going to do for the rest of my career. And 25 companies later either as the C-Level exec, advisor, investor, or board member. That’s what I continue to do and I love to do that.

What Inspires and Motivates You?

What inspires me is really helping out entrepreneurs and start-ups. It’s so much fun to watch them understand a particular problem, figure out how to solve that problem, and then help them with that journey along the way. I’ve worked with a bunch of start-ups and a lot of them are in existence today, they continue to grow, or they’ve been acquired and I just love that part of the journey. You’re helping, you’re giving things that you did really well that they can replicate. And things maybe I didn’t do so well in my past lives that we can avoid and hopefully that jump starts them with all of those experiences.

What Attributes Lead to Success?

So the attributes that lead to success there’s many but there’s a few off the top of my head. First is perseverance. You can kind of think of that I’ll date myself a little bit. That Chumbawamba song where you get knocked down, you get back up. You got to do that a lot within the startup areas. You have to listen. So, you have to understand what is the real kind of market-pain market-need that you can uniquely solve. And then ultimately, I think of it as smart action. How do we take that learning that we’ve had with the market, the pain that we know that we can uniquely solve, and turn that into a company, into a product, into a team expansion, whatever we want to do. But it’s that perseverance, listening, and smart action that I love.

What Are Your Must-Haves Before You Make An Investment?

My must haves before I make an investment are really around kind of three primary things. First, it’s the team. Do I think that they have the skill set that perseverance and drive and can I work cooperatively with them, and do I think I can help?

The second is do they have product market proof-points. So they have to have had some success within the market. It doesn’t have to be this huge amount of revenue or huge amount of customers, but we have to have validated that we have pain.

And then the third is the opportunity. Is it big enough? Because we know we’re going to be making maybe some mistakes, some re-steps. There’s no start-up that I’ve ever been around that’s gone from point A to point B. We kind of meander around. So you need a big market to be able to meander around and continue to learn.

What Advice Do You Have For Entrepreneurs?

So the advice I have for entrepreneurs is really kind of threefold. One is surround yourself with good team members, good advisors, and good board members. They’re going to be invaluable to help you throughout the journey, giving you great advice, experience, what things to do, what things to avoid.

The second is you’re going to have highs and lows. So balance yourself through those highs and lows. In any entrepreneurial journey you’re going to wake up at three o’clock in the morning with a cold sweat and go, “Oh my God, what am I doing?” And you have to be able to balance that with when you have the great customer win, or the great product release, that you enjoy both of those sides and you balance it.

And then the third is really balance kind of in your life. I try to work out every day. I try to do as many of my kids sporting events and things like that. So you have a bunch of people that are around you, outside of your company, outside of your investors and advisors, that you have to pay attention to because that’s part of kind of living a life well-lived in my opinion.

What Value Does Gesmer Bring to Scaling Companies?

The value that Gesmer brings is really kind of twofold in my experience. One is that network advice. They surround themselves with quality people and then they’re very open with that rolodex for the people that they work with. It’s really incredible to be able to work with a group proactively that does that which, in my experience, is really unusual.

And then the second is really the expert advice. You’re going to people who know more about a particular subject than you that want to be part of your team, want to be part of your company, and are going to help you along the way.

Why Go With Gesmer?

Why would you go with Gesmer? Why would you choose Gesmer? They’re the most proactive group that I’ve worked with and that I’ve seen in their space. And if you’re a start-up entrepreneur or you’re a start-up investor advisor, you need that proactive help because sometimes you don’t think through all the questions. You’re in the heat of the day and you need somebody to be really proactive with you, and that trusted advisor that sometimes can give you tough love, which is good, emphasize the love part of that, and sometimes can give you that expert advice but do it in a proactive way and I think Gesmer does an exceptional job at that.

-Blair Heavey

Read more about Blair Heavey here: LinkedIn for Blair Heavey