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Bell Urges Entrepreneurs To Start Early, Think Creatively

For The Heights

Published: Sunday, September 23, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

bell

Kylie Montero / Heights Staff

“My view is: don’t wait,” said Peter Bell, general partner at Highland Capital and BC ’86. “Waiting is a really bad thing in life. Time is one of your most precious resources.” Bell spoke to a crowd of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurship last Thursday in the Fulton Honors Library. Bell was welcomed back to his alma mater as the first speaker for this fall’s “Lunch with a Leader” initiative, sponsored by the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics.

Graduating with a degree in accounting from Boston College, Bell briefly worked for PriceWaterhouseCooper before taking a job with Boston- and Bay Area-based startup EMC. After working for five years in San Mateo, Calif. with EMC, Bell attended Harvard Business School. Following the completion of his MBA, he founded a cloud computing based startup company that eventually went public. Since selling the company in 2002, Bell has taught advanced management courses and investing for the past 10 years. Following the introductory segment of his speech, he offered advice for aspiring young entrepreneurs.

“As you think about your careers, if you’re going to join or start a startup, the cost goes up as you get older,” he said, asking the students present to get involved in their interests as soon as possible.

Bell went on to address a sentiment that was likely present in most students’ minds as they listened to his presentation—that all successful business ideas may already be taken.

“The great companies—their ideas, they don’t make sense,” he said, citing examples like Facebook and the iPad to indicate that many staples of modern society were drastic changes from the way things were done at the time they were introduced.

Using the uncanny nature of startup companies and the benefits of early involvement as a backdrop, Bell went on to a broader discussion of some strategies for young entrepreneurs with developed ideas. Stating “people love hanging out with students,” he stressed the luxury of BC students’ proximity to a hub of established entrepreneurs and investors, urging the audience to reach out and express their ideas to those who once walked the same path. He also emphasized the importance of using the BC alumni database, indicating that it is an underused resource by most of the student population.

Bell went on to articulate some of the nuances of the venture capital industry, which consists of funders and analysts who listen to presentations by entrepreneurs and decide whether to finance their ventures for a later return on their investment. Although there are only five to 10 deals in the United States worth investing in every year, Bell emphasized that the venture capital industry is always a buyer’s market for the most innovative entrepreneurs.

While Bell went over some of the technical aspects of success for entrepreneurs in the context of venture capital, perhaps his most heartfelt and memorable advice came in the form of an all too familiar dialogue while discussing the importance of working relationships.

“It’s like your mother told you when you were a kid—she didn’t want you hanging around the wrong people. That’s the best advice you can get in business.”

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