Marcia Dawood on her mission to help founders build companies that are changing the world

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Describe yourself in a few words?

I’m an angel investor/venture capitalist working with mainly diverse founders to help build companies changing the world and helping those founder’s dreams come true.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I worked in corporate America for many years and always knew I wanted to do something more. I had been in the education industry and the transition to a new industry was challenging but also rewarding. It takes patience and perseverance.

What was your background prior to joining Mindshift Capital?

I worked in sales and marketing for the first 10 years with Kaplan Education and then moved to operations where I was a regional ops manager, a compliance ops manager and then VP of Career Services for our 72 college campuses.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and loved the idea of creating something that would become my “job” or career. I was always motivated to “create” the next thing.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

What I do is a little different than a traditional entreprenista. I have over 200 companies in my angel/venture portfolio and I work with a handful of them quite closely. I never planned to end up becoming so involved taking board seats for companies as well as becoming the Chair of the board of the Angel Capital Association – the professional association for angel investors across the US as well as with a global reach. For every door I walked through, many others opened up.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

One of my first investments was in a company that won several awards – business plan competitions, demo days etc but in the end, the CEO didn’t have enough skin in the game and he left when the going got tough – he got another job and left all the investors holding the bag. Big lesson there was don’t let things that look good on the surface fool you when there could be big issues deeper in.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

When I was growing up, I was overweight and lacked self confidence. I went to college away from home where I started my journey to redefine who I was into who I wanted to be. It was (is) a bumpy road but everyone is really trying to do their best and no one is perfect. We have to be kind to ourselves and to each other. 

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

I like to start every interview with “Tell me about yourself”. You can tell a lot about someone in how they answer this.  Where do they start? What do they tell you about most? Personal or professionally… No answer is wrong which also starts the conversation more at ease. One hiring tip would be – always get to 3 solid candidates to choose from – don’t think you have found ‘the perfect person’ even if you really like someone at the beginning. Hire slow, fire fast!

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

I saw many companies thrive during the Covid-19 pandemic – more than I thought I would have. There were a few in my portfolio that suffered but many were very resilient and figured out how to make lemonade out of lemons. Also – as an angel investor, it takes many years before exits start to happen but during 2020 there were a few companies that did have a successful exit – one for over 10x!

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

In 2021 I started a podcast called ‘Angels Live!’ It’s about how people became angel investors or why they do it or how entrepreneurs raised funds from them – Anything about becoming an angel. If we want to see change in how much funding goes to underrepresented founders (women, POC – currently less than 5%) we have to get more people to be angels. You will see me over the next few years working on getting the word out (along with many in my industry) to get younger, more diverse angels. 

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

One of my favorite sayings is “the only way through – is though”. Meaning you have to just keep going no matter what obstacles get thrown your way. And 2020 put a lot of obstacles in the way for all of us but entrepreneurs dug deep and found opportunities as well – it sounds simple but you just have to keep moving forward one step, one breath at a time.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

Just because it’s a good idea and could create change, it doesn’t mean it’s scalable or that the team can take it there. The first 2 questions I’m asking when evaluating a company is “can this team make this happen?” & “what is the path to scalability?”

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

I was lucky enough to be an early adopter with Peloton (we lived in NYC and started riding in 2013) and had a bike before the pandemic. I’ve also been doing yoga since 2002 so being able to continue with a regular fitness routine was very important to me when lockdown started.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Absolutely! I read a blog about a woman who would mentally put all of her unfinished work for the day into an imaginary box and then get the box out (in her mind) the next morning. I loved this idea! Whatever way we can compartmentalize all the things we are trying to get done!

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m the stepmom to 3 great boys. I’ve been in their lives since they were pretty little. We have a really good blended family story. So often you hear the drama of blended families but their Dad (my hubby) and their mom along with me and their step dad always put the kids first and we all get along. Communication and respect for each other and the situation is key.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

Have a plan for the week ahead, say no to at least 1 thing each day and don’t feel guilty about it and get up and walk away from the computer at least once every 90 minutes or so. Oh – and try to take a call or 2 on the phone instead of zoom so you can take a walk at the same time!

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

So many of the amazing Entreprenistas I’ve met saw the need for change and when they couldn’t find it, they created it. If we want to see change in the world, we need to create it, invest in it and/or be it!

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