William Erbey: From Running Multi-Billion Dollar Companies To Angel Investing

Nov. 25, 2019 11:45 AM ET1 Comment
Please Note: Blog posts are not selected, edited or screened by Seeking Alpha editors.

Contributor Since 2014

An investor in a variety of industries, with a special focus on technology. Specially focused on value stocks, poorly understood, or under-followed situations. I'm primarily investing in special situations with a value that is not fully appreciated or where there is a highly asymmetric risk/reward perspectives. Also, an avid fish grower - talk to me if you are curious about those topics as well.

A serial entrepreneur and angel investor, William Erbey, a highly successful businessman, has founded six multi-billion dollar public companies traded on the NYSE and NASDAQ. In 2013, two of those companies were the 12th and 20th fastest growing companies according to Fortune Magazine. In 2014, Fortune Magazine listed those same two companies as the 8th and 26th fastest growing companies.

In early 2015, Mr. Erbey retired and switched his attention to angel investing in the tech space including internet streaming, electric motors, and medical devices. In recent years, he has focused his time and energy on investment and mentoring activities.

We had a chance to speak with Mr. Erbey and get his insights on a number of topics.

Q: As the founder of many successful businesses, do you find there is a "formula for success" which you practice in managing them? Or do you manage each differently? What tips do you have on running a successful business?

A: Hire the best people possible. Agree upon high-level goals/objectives and get out of their way. Make certain that you have more than sufficient capital and liquidity to grow the business. Establish a culture of hard work and attention to detail while simultaneously encouraging inductive thinking. Often, onlookers see the final result without the work and effort that have gone into that result.

Q: What difficulties do you think new entrepreneurs should know about heading into the business world?

A: First, everything takes longer and costs more than you anticipate. Often your initial idea requires a pivot. Make certain that you have a significant capital buffer so that you do no got out of business before you achieve your goal. Second, one of your biggest challenges will be to recruit quality talent to a start-up. You will be miles ahead if you can start your business with colleagues who have the requisite skills and commitment to succeed.

Q: What, if any advice were you given which you can point your finger to as a turning point in your career?

Early in my career, I had the privilege of working for a world-class organization – General Electric Credit Corporation. I reported to a senior executive (Jim Fischel), and he had an identical philosophy to the Business School where I had just graduated. Both had a training pedagogy similar to the United States Marine Corps. Break the person down and build them back up again. He was relentless in his criticism of my work. And, I was too stubborn to give in and vowed to show him. In the background, he was my biggest supporter. I owe him a lot. He was trying to make me better. Seven years later, I was tied for being the youngest General Manager in the history of the company. I also had the privilege of working for two highly regarded executives – Gary Wendt and Larry Bossidy. Overall it was the culture where one learned by osmosis. I advise every young adult who wants to become an entrepreneur to work at least a few years with a highly successful corporation. It is the best education.

Q: "Data is the new oil"-do you agree with this statement? What are your thoughts on user data mining by big tech?

A: Absolutely. But, just like oil, data is only valuable if it is refined. Capturing large amounts of data is interesting but not particularly useful. The key is to determine which data is useful and discard the rest. This is particularly true in forecasting congestion on the internet. Capturing billions of data points every millisecond is not only impractical but also non-productive. Most of the data has a negative value in that using it will lead to incorrect conclusions. Excellent analytics, however, is invaluable.

Q: As a man who is always on to the next project, what can you tell us of your plans for the future?

A: I would refer to the projects listed on the home page. There is one project not listed which may or may not come to fruition which is a pet adoption channel. I love dogs and would love to find as many of them as possible forever homes.

Recommended For You

Comments (1)

To ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, please enable Javascript and cookies in your browser.
Is this happening to you frequently? Please report it on our feedback forum.
If you have an ad-blocker enabled you may be blocked from proceeding. Please disable your ad-blocker and refresh.