When you find someone good, keep up with them.
Brownie points if you reach out to them when you don’t need something because the best teams are those that have a history, Bob Miller, the former COO of Waitr and current COO of Global Data Systems, told several dozen LSU students Monday evening.
During a speech organized by CEO at LSU—a university-affiliated group that aims to promote the entrepreneurial spirit among students—Miller stressed the importance of connections in a startup environment and gave tips for how to establish those connections.
“If you get the chance to do something for free for people who are important and have a lot of money, do it,” Miller said.
Back in the late 1990s and early ‘00s, Miller lent some of his expertise at no charge to a budding startup, an internet provider called Xspedius. In 2003, the company sold to Time Warner for $500 million. Then in 2016, one of the people with whom Miller worked on the Xspedius deal told him about a new startup called Waitr, which, at the time, needed a $1 million investment.
Though the business contact didn’t end up investing in Waitr, Miller did. And he reaped the benefits five months ago, when Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta bought the Lafayette-based company for $308 million with plans to take Waitr public.
“Mathematically, you’re going to fail three out of four times,” Miller said. “But then that fourth time, you’re going to hit it.”
When working on different startups, Miller said to keep tabs on four kinds of people: those who can use technology (software developers), those who can tell you if your innovation will make money (financial advisors), those who can make your idea visually appealing (graphic designers), and those who can get your message out (public relations professionals).
He also said to include groundworkers in the decision-making process of an early startup, since they’re the ones seeing problems play out on a regular basis.
“Diversity creates the best ideas,” Miller said. “Include the janitor as well as everyone else.”
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