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Mark Suster – UC, San Diego

Serial Entrepreneur

Road to Greatness


Now passionate about passion, the entrepreneur-turned-VC Mark Suster was once merely opportunistic about opportunity. He thought his first company, the construction collaboration enterprise BuildOnline, was boring. He hated going to all those meetings with the construction guys, the architects, the engineers. It really wasn’t his thing. But construction was a ripe, juicy sector–full of inefficiencies that could be zapped by new technology. And builders were supplying about 12% of GDP–the sort of figure that makes even jaded venture capitalists feel like they were just slipped some Cialis. BuildOnline was his partner’s idea (hence Mark’s remove from passion), but the sheer scale of the opportunity helped Suster overcome the ennui–and the business he founded prospered, merging once and then getting acquired.

Next he built a content collaboration company called Koral, which was closer to his passion–pure software, no bricks and steel. (And better meetings, one presumes.) Salesforce.com bought Koral in 2007. Now Suster doesn’t have to be bored ever again. He can pursue only things he’s passionate about, which mirrors the advice he gives entrepreneurs as a mentor at LaunchPad LA. And passion is a big part of what he looks for as a VC at the newly re-branded Upfront Ventures, too. Because passion is what it takes to really see things through in dark times. Of course deep down, no one starting a business really believes it when multimillionaire success stories like Suster–safely ensconced on the other side of failure–talk about dark times. But at his excellent blog, Suster often focuses on the tough stuff, knowing the realities. Since the VC business is about more than money, VCs today are out there trying hard to make themselves understood, to build their brands and establish their particular vision just like the entrepreneurs they back. Suster is one of the best at it.

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