Gary LaFever has been involved in the launch and exit of several startups already. Now he is tackling an even bolder venture with a big data startup that has already attracted tens of millions of dollars in investment.
On the Dealmakers Show LaFever talked about setting big hairy audacious goals, thinking forward and doing crazy and impossible things, and raising capital for them. Plus, the future of data, ideas versus timing versus technology, and selling your company.
Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.
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You Can Do Anything You Want To Do
Gary LaFever grew up in Virginia. The only son, and youngest of four children.
His mother was a pioneer in executive banking. His father, a senior civil engineer for a major municipality, even though he didn’t have a college degree. Both taught him that he could accomplish anything he wanted to. So far he has, and he isn’t done yet.
Today, that remains the top advice he’d like to give others thinking of launching their own business. He says that if you are willing to work at it long enough, you can do anything. It might take 10 years to become that overnight success story. Though if you have vision, drive, and truly believe in what you are doing, and surround yourself with great people, you can do it.
You may have to be willing to be wrong, to continually iterate, and allow others to question your every assumption, but anything is possible.
In fact, time and time again, people thought LaFever was trying the impossible. Things that just couldn’t be done. Until he did.
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Seeing The Future Of Data
For college, Gary LaFever chose to study computer law. A combination of law and computer science.
He says that he wasn’t as fascinated with hardware or learning to code, but rather what the technology, and especially data could mean for society. He saw applications for business, politics, and more.
After working with Accenture, he went on to become a partner at a notable law firm. At a time when other lawyers understood both the legal and technology space. Which meant he was able to work with the great companies of the time. Like AOL, Prodigy, and Compserve.
As he moved up in the law firm, he found himself getting further from the clients, which despite the great billing rates – was something he was more passionate about.
Starting Up And Selling Companies
Seeing technology as an even bigger platform and opportunity, Gary threw himself into the business side of things instead of just the legal.
His first venture was partnering with Susan Defife on womenconnect.com. A network designed to fill the gap in the world for helping business women owners and professionals connect and thrive together.
As they expanded, he found cooperative business skills very valuable for dealing with all genders, and people around the world from different cultures and jurisdictions.
He worked on that project until the company was in negotiations to be acquired by a bank.
Next he joined Internet2Anywhere as their CEO. Working with the original founder, and former head of the northern artillery command for Israel, Gideon Lefebre, they struck out to connect devices and applications before the internet was everywhere.
Eventually the world, internet, and 2G infrastructure caught up, and he says that he learned the importance of not just great vision, but timing, and how technology evolves.
Gary’s next venture was FTEN, a financial services technology company that facilitated high speed algorithmic trading. It was not just about automating trading, but providing traders better risk management that wasn’t siloed to their own individual trades. A backstop for avoiding really ugly and expensive mistakes.
This company was acquired for nine figures. Showing that by minimizing misuse of data, you can go far beyond minimizing risk, and maximize the value of data.
Many founders desire an exit. They wish they could replicate it, again and again. After all of these exits, Gary actually says that “if you’re looking to sell your company. you are not going to be successful.” However, “if you’re looking to change the world and you find someone who’s aligned in your vision of what the world should be, then you have got an exit.” Especially if you are willing to work with them for a couple of years to really keep it going.
Which is just what happened with his next venture for NASDAQ. As a part of an internal Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) competition, Gary and his partner Ted Myerson came up with the idea for taking financial data into the cloud.
Due to laws around record keeping and security, everyone thought it was impossible to do in the cloud. So, they went to Andy Jassy, who was then running AWS at Amazon, and sat in a room until they figured out how to do it, and got the blessing of the SEC.
With the proceeds from selling FTEN to NASDAQ, Gary and his business partner Ted launched their latest venture, Anonos. A big data startup that has taken a contrarian approach to managing data and its value.
To date they’ve now raised $70M, they have built a team of 65, including those they acquired in a recent acquisition in Europe.
They see a future with much more control over data for companies, governments, and consumers. which will carry less liability and more value for all involved.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Gary LaFever was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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They see a future with much more control over data for companies, governments, and consumers. Which will carry less liability and more value for all involved.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- The future of data management
- Raising capital