We had a lot of incredible guests on the Fast Frontiers podcast in 2021. One of the most interesting things about what we do is connecting with intelligent and innovative guests and spotlighting their achievements and top pieces of advice.
Every episode brings new insights, tips, tricks, and stories, but we wanted to take a second to feature some of our most listened to episodes of 2021 in this two-part series.
Talking It Out with Victor Gutwein
Victor Gutwein joined us on Season 2 Episode 2. Victor is the founder and managing partner of M25 ventures, a Chicago-based firm that’s been the most active, early-stage firm in the Midwest in the last few years, with over 90 portfolio companies and counting by the minute
Victor’s also a member of an upcoming Kauffman Fellows class, which anyone familiar with the venture capital realm will know is a tremendous badge of honor.
Before launching M25, Victor made history, becoming the youngest member of Hyde Park Angels. He led the consumer product team and was also one of the founding members of the University of Chicago’s student-run venture fund.
Victor has had his fair share of experience in raising capital, so he knows what it takes to succeed in raising seed. Victor’s lesson is simple yet pivotal: “You have to talk to a lot of investors to make money.”
For this reason, you have to be intentional about building relationships with people in the startup ecosystem. Victor shared that “It’s really a snowball effect, because when you make one investment, when you’re active in a community, then you start to see other opportunities.” And on the network goes—and gives.
Alex Frommeyer: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Season 3 Episode 12 of our Fast Frontiers podcast featured Alex Frommeyer, co-founder and CEO of Beam Dental in Columbus, Ohio. Alex started the company in 2012 alongside two other engineers who saw an opportunity to modernize the dental world by using technology.
Starting their endeavor from scratch, you could say that Alex knows something about building things from the ground up and what makes that process succeed. Spoiler alert: It’s all about your team.
The specific lesson Alex shared was that if you can develop a great team at scale, you can do anything. Alex pointed out that it’s people who trump all else: “There’s no close second.”
This revelation came as a surprise for Alex, who was first primarily focused (understandably) on the technical risks and challenges of their endeavor. “Only later was it super obvious, and this is once we started raising money and building teams and having a real business behind the product then you’re like, ‘oh man, now I get it,’ It really is all about the people,” Alex said. “If you can attract talent, retain talent, develop talent, build teams, articulate goals, get everybody rowing in the same direction—if you can do that and you can do it at scale, you can build anything.”
Problem Solving and Finding Solutions with Ethan Batraski
Ethan Batraski, Partner at Venrock, joined us for Season 3 Episode 3 of Fast Frontiers. Ethan is based at the Palo Alto office. He invests across sectors, focusing on hard engineering problems such as developer tools and infrastructure, open source software, space, and emerging compute, so he sees it all. Among the lessons he has learned is to make sure you know the primary problem your startup is solving and understand the market you are entering with your solution.
According to Ethan, “It’s natural to fall in love with the solution because you’re excited about the construction and the art and the science of how it came together in order to solve this problem. But [what] happens is you eventually lose sight of that problem, and then the scope of that solution ends up drifting, and as you drift, [the] effectiveness or the application of that solution to the problem starts to be less and less obvious or apparent?”
Put simply, if the product is your north star and not the customer, then you’re going to go veer off course.
Ethan also explained that “It’s hard at the early stages when you’re going through the idea phase. But it’s important that you distinctly focus on, ‘Here’s a problem we’re solving. This is the thing we care about,’ and that problem is always, you know, has to be very customer-centric to who you’re solving it for. Our second problem is always about market, not really understanding the market you’re going into, and in many cases, being an expert in that market. Who are the other players, what are the dynamics, what are the driving factors that are changing that market that give you new company an opportunity to enter and take advantage as a prevailing trend?”
This is just the highlight reel of our most listened-to podcasts of 2021, so you can imagine the wealth of information and advice available in the many other podcast episodes we’ve recorded. To listen to each in full, head over to our website.