There is no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone.
Las Vegas, NV
- Jeff Harbach has been the executive director of the Central Texas Angel Network (CTAN) since 2011, bringing over 10 years of entrepreneurial experience to this position. As the organization’s first full-time Executive Director, Jeff is focused on engaging and mentoring entrepreneurs through the capital formation process, recruiting professional investors with industry experience, and supporting the growth of entrepreneurship in Texas.
- As Executive Director, Jeff will explore new ways to further support the entrepreneurs that CTAN funds. One such model involves CTAN’s partnership with Texas Venture Labs (TVL), an organization that Jeff co-founded at the University of Texas. TVL is a university-backed initiative to support technology commercialization, entrepreneurship, and innovation across campus. TVL offers a unique opportunity for interaction between students, entrepreneurs, and investors. It is relationships like these that have enabled CTAN to be recognized as one of the Top 5 most active angel networks in the US in the 2012 Halo Report.
- Jeff also has a passion for building successful companies and working with innovative entrepreneurs, in large part because Jeff’s background is that of an entrepreneur. Prior to joining CTAN, Jeff purchased and operated two 7-Eleven stores in Las Vegas, Nevada, which he still owns today. He has led multiple startups, including a luxury furniture store and interior design firm, a golf-focused destination club, and a private country club golf network. Jeff was also an angel investor himself with the Vegas Valley Angels.
- Jeff holds a BS in Business Management/Information Systems from Brigham Young University and an MBA from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, where he served as the Director of the Venture Fellows program and the co-founder of Texas Venture Labs. He is a Kauffman Fellow (Class of '16).
- HOW DID YOU END UP AT THE HEAD OF CTAN?
- My journey into CTAN was kind of a unique one, it was all about timing. So, I have a background in angel investing, so I was an angel investor in Las Vegas, that helped a little bit, but then during my time in the MBA, I spent a lot of time volunteering with CTAN, getting to know the angel investors there, and helping doing some diligence work and working with companies.
- So when it came time to graduate, I was looking for -- I know I didn't want to leave Austin and I know i didn't want to go into any kind of a big corporate type of a job, I wanted to stay in what I was doing all through the MBA program program already.
- And, so it was a kind of a perfect time with the last part-time executive director was peeling off to do his own venture capital firm and they were looking to hire a full-time individual. Because I had already built those relationships, because I had already done a lot of work with CTAN in the past, it was just kind of a right place, right time.
- WHAT ARE CTAN’S ORIGINS?
- So, CTAN was started back in 2006 by Jamie Rhodes, and Jamie Rhodes is an ecosystem evangelist. He's been an angel investor for a long time, he's an entrepreneur and he saw a need in Austin which was not being filled which was we have a lot of angel activity and we certainly have a lot of entrepreneurial activity, but there's no organized angel network.
- WHAT IS THE DRAW OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
- So one of things I love about entrepreneurs is they're hungry. They're hungry, they want to grow their business and they want to learn as much as they can and they're willing to knock down walls.
- But at the same time oftentimes they don't know what they don't know and that's where angels really kind of provided the glue to help them continue to grow. We add lot of value to the network because we provide more than just capital. Angels are really important to entrepreneurs because they become mentors and they help that company grow besides just the capital they provide.
- WHERE DOES CTAN MONEY LAND?
- We invest in multiple different sectors: life sciences, mobile, social, food and beverage...
- It's more about we're investing in entrepreneurs, we're investing in entrepreneurs that are growing their company and being active about kind of meeting the -- delivering on the things that they said they're going to deliver on.
- Those are the companies we're really investing in.
- TALK ABOUT THE FUNCTION OF CTAN.
- The real value in getting angels together to invest together through a a vehicle like CTAN is to be able to syndicate deals. So, they're able to spread their investments and take more portfolio approach to investing by getting together with a group.
- That's one value, but the second very important value is more eyeballs on companies. So and those eyeballs are to either help, you know, kind of vet the deal in see, hey, you know, where are the places that this company needs to really look out for or needs to improve, but then again also, post investment, it's more eyeballs to help that company continue to grow and make connections in and kind of group resources around helping entrepreneurs.
- HOW DOES AN ENTREPREUR GET CTAN’S ATTENTION?
- So the best way for an entrepreneur to approach CTAN is to come to one of our office hours events. We started these in 2012 and the main reason we did them is to be open, to open our doors to entrepreneurs.
- So if you're an entrepreneur looking for seed capital anywhere from a hundred thousand to a million, even up to two million, you ought to come to our office hours events. We grab fifteen to twenty of our investors, we come and sit at a table, and we allow any entrepreneur that RSVPs for the event to have one-on-one conversations with our investors. Building startup teams is tough -- it's tough to find co-founders that you gel with, that you all bring different things to the table...
- ANY GUIDANCE FOR NEW STARTUPS?
- If I were going to give advice to entrepreneurs, I'd say get out of your comfort zone. Go to places that you don't normally go.
- So, in the business school when I was there, we started thing called Texas Venture Labs and that's been really impactful. I was one of the co-founders of Texas Venture Labs and the reason why was passionate about it is because it wasn't just a business school. We broke down the barriers on campus, we went to the engineering school, we went to the law school, went to the computer science department. And we kind of got all these different individuals that were all interested in entrepreneurship and got them in a room talking about things, looking at things from different angles.
- So, what I would tell entrepreneurs is follow that same model, don't just talk to a bunch of MBAs, don't just talk to a bunch of engineers. Go to events, go to places where you can meet people with different backgrounds and really embrace and listen to what they're saying.
- WHAT WOULD YOU SAY NOW TO THE “OLD JEFF”?
- So, the one thing that I'd say that I wish that I knew way back when I bought my first 7-11, and operated that, to now where I'm at? Is that it's okay make mistakes. In fact, it's actually really good to make mistakes.
- I came out, I was an entrepreneur fresh out of college, I bought my first store, I ran that 24-7. I mean I was at my store 80 to 100 hours a week. And I wanted to do everything perfect, because I'd just got my degree, now
- I knew everything there was to know about business and so I needed to make sure I didn't make any mistakes. And if I were to go back and talk to that old Jeff and say, you know, hey, here's some things I've learned, it would be it's okay to make mistakes, it's okay to learn from those mistakes, in fact you might learn as much from some of your mistakes as you do you from some of your successes.
- You still learn from your successes, so don't void yourself of having successes, but you learn from both and you can learn equally from the mistakes.