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Start-ups: In the Cradle

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Angel investor Charlie Kindel discusses the prerequisites for successful startups.

Venture met angel investor Charlie Kindel on the sidelines of Endeavor’s Speed Networking event, in collaboration with Geeks on a Plane and Partners for a New Beginning. Kindel served with Microsoft for over two decades and is best known for creating the Windows Phone 7 application platform and third party ecosystem, Windows Home Server, Windows Media Center, as well as various startups.

What is the single most important factor you look for in a start-up before investing?

The first is the people; the team is the most critical aspect. The idea they have, the technology they’re building, and even the market they are trying to penetrate are, in my opinion, far less important than their demonstrative ability to think about the problem they are going after, execute, and show a passion for what they’re doing.

How would you evaluate whether or not a startup has the team dynamic you are looking for?

The easiest way is if they demonstrate that they can execute; by showing that they have already been working on their idea, that they’ve actually built a prototype, got it in front of real customers, and had conversation about real usage. I’m not rigid about looking for entrepreneurs who have earned a lot of revenue. For me ideas are dime a dozen; everybody has them, so they are not very valuable in their own right. What is valuable is taking an idea and building something around it, and what is even more valuable is ensuring that the idea can be sold; that people will pay for it.

What is the worst kind of entrepreneur in your opinion?

The worst type is what we call “wantrepreneurs.” They want to be an entrepreneur but they don’t know how to get started. They spend all of their time just thinking about ideas and talking to people who are in the community, but they never actually “do.”

What markets or technologies are you most interested in as an investor?

My background is in software technology, mobile technology, cloud services, and building products for consumers and developers. The startups I am interested in are in the intersection of all these things – consumer, developer, cloud. I am less concerned about what industry the start up is in, because I come from a technical perspective and that’s where I can add value.

What are your most recent business ventures since leaving Microsoft?

When I left Microsoft I knew I wanted to get involved in startups, I consider myself an entrepreneur and I want to build companies. I have started two companies before I left; one is already a failure. We built all the technology but failed to raise money. However, it’s a victory through failure, because it’s about learning. I am currently building another start-up, called Milelogr. It’s in the personal finance space. The idea is to mile people’s calendars and be able to generate expense information. In parallel to that, I am a consultant and mentor, and I advise nine companies in New Hampshire, Boston, and the Bay Area.

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