Recently, the NYC Lean Startup Meetup held a chat with William Peng on his unusual journey to becoming an investor. Peng majored in Operations Research and Financial Engineering at Princeton and his graduation during the financial market slump led him to explore entrepreneurship over the more traditional corporate systems for which his degree had prepared him. He was a Product Designer at Hot Potato, then worked on product analytics for Drop.io, both of which were acquired by Facebook. Peng’s background in entrepreneurship has given him a unique perspective as an investor.
“I don’t really see myself as an investor,” said Peng. “I see myself as an entrepreneur in investor’s clothes.”
Some of the insights Peng shared from his experience with working at multiple startups included:
“Get your product as close to the market lead as possible. Especially when you’re a sub-ten employee company there should be only one product person and that should be the CEO.”
On pivoting, he said, “You pivot when you’re not seeing any traction in the market…or it’s a feeling that you’re not building something that really tracks with what’s out there. I actually don’t like the word ‘pivot’ because it leans too much into the sunk cost rather than taking a risk on something new.”
He mentioned that he prefers investing in companies that are willing to take risks rather than those that are too cautious to make radical changes, when maintaining the status quo could lead to going out of business.
“It’s really interesting talking to an entrepreneur who’s had the same vision throughout, tested it, found that part of their hypothesis was wrong and tested something else,” he said.
Peng concluded by discussing the importance of building a solid pitch. “I think it turns out well when you’ve told a good story. I’ve always told people that pitching is about telling a good story. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that a pitch begins before you even come to pitch me.”
An essential part of telling a good story is living it and Peng is proof positive that while our paths may begin with a bump, it’s the journey that makes us.
Editor’s note: William currently is an associate at Raptor Ventures focused on early stage investments in consumer internet and digital media, retail and online business services. He is currently associated with Krush, Media Spike, GraphScience, Fliptop, Opensky, and SecurityPoint Media.
Read more about New York-based venture capitalists and investors.