OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | PeopleWise: Gordon Daugherty
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PeopleWise: Gordon Daugherty

Gordon Daugherty is a seasoned business executive, entrepreneur, startup advisor, investor, and best-selling author. He is the co-founder and president of Capital Factory, a startup accelerator, seed-stage venture fund, and co-working facility based in Austin, Texas. Investing in around 50 companies a week, he helps to introduce the brightest entrepreneurs to their first investors, employees, mentors, and customers.

What does a typical day look like for you at Capital Factory?

It’s pretty much me helping startups all day long through things like advisory sessions and recruitment interviews. The way I describe it is: I get the pleasure of spending one hundred percent of my time educating, advising, and investing in tech startups.

What motivates you, and has that changed since the start of your career?

I’ve had two careers; I started out putting in long hours and “climbing the ladder,” working to grow and build small tech companies—that was about a 27-year career. But for the last 8 years, I’ve shifted my focus to helping startups. What motivates me now is learning and improving. As a result of helping startups, I’m learning a lot about problem-solving, innovative solutions, and new business models.

Tell me about the first company you started, Shockwave Innovations.

Shockwave is a really interesting company, it’s essentially the brand I created for publishing and promoting the educational and advisory content that started with blogging and publishing advice articles. Over time, I’ve produced an extensive video library that’s available for rent and purchase. I also published a book through Shockwave last year. Throughout the process, I’ve learned that attracting consumer traffic to my content is no easy task. It’s definitely harder than I thought it would be getting people to my website and directing them towards my video library, books, and other online content. The company is me and only me, I’m in charge of all of the marketing.

What career mistake has taught you the biggest lesson?

Coming off a success—a company that we took public and sold to another company—I took some time off to recharge my batteries. Coming back, I had this inflated mentality that I was bulletproof. I took on a job at a company that desperately needed to be turned around—they were in big trouble. I thought the challenge of this would be fun, but it turned out to be the exact opposite. There was dysfunction amongst the management team and resent from the founders that we were coming in trying to save them. It was one big dysfunctional mess and very stressful for about a year and a half. In the end, I learned a few things about how to better judge opportunities and to not feel so bulletproof like I can do anything.

What is your greatest strength and weakness?

One of my greatest strengths is listening. I’m definitely a listener. When I’m in meetings, I purposely don’t do a lot of talking. Instead, I’m really trying to listen to the dialogue, and when I do speak, I’ve had a chance to think it through.

As far as my weakness, my wife jokingly tells me that I’m a “switch, not a knob.” When I get involved in something, I’m 100% committed. I find it hard to dial something to seven, eight, or nine—I just flip it on and go all in. It can have some positive attributes, but sometimes I shouldn’t take it all the way to ten. A great example is vacations—they’re supposed to be spontaneous and fun, right? But my natural tendency is to have every part of every day planned out, which can take away some of the pleasure of it.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your career?

I really enjoy writing, which is something I didn’t know about myself until I started writing advice articles for entrepreneurs. I think that I have a way of communicating complex topics in an easy to understand way. I enjoy trying to figure out: what is in my brain that I know (or think that I know), and how can I translate it onto paper in a way that will benefit others? This whole concept of education and content creation is a hobby that continues to exist outside of my business.