Ron and Topher Conway, Managing Partners at SV Angel, sat down with us before speaking at YC’s weekly dinner.
What do you believe that few people agree with you on?
Topher : A founder’s grit and determination, not the environmental conditions, are the key factors in their success.
Ron : The characteristics of the founders are the most important trait about a company.
What’s the most useful piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Topher : It was actually from Ron–your reputation is your biggest asset. If you think about things this way, the other characteristics will fall into place. Things like work ethic, responsiveness, how you treat other people, how you treat entrepreneurs. If you start with your reputation and work back into that, you’ll be set up for success.
Ron : Procrastination is the devil. You have to make decisions and move the ship forward.
What’s one skill or expertise that you’d like to acquire?
Topher : Computer Science. I think it’d help me connect with founders on another level.
Ron : I wish I spent more time using products, particularly social products. I prioritize spending time with founders but wish I had more time to use products.
If you weren’t working on SV Angel what would you be working on?
Ron : Philanthropy, specifically around chronic illnesses. I already spend 30% of my time on it but if I wasn’t working on tech I’d be working on more of that.
Topher : Also philanthropy, though I’d focus on education.
What book has influenced you most?
Topher : Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden
Ron : The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
What’s something you’d tell your younger self?
Topher : Study CS. I’m not sure if I would’ve pursued it as a career but a deeper technical understanding would be valuable to me.
Ron : Start angel investing sooner. Even though I’ve been doing it for twenty-two years I could’ve started four years earlier but I decided to start a software company instead. I’d spent twelve years at a hardware company and thought starting a software company would be really exotic. What I came to realize was that software companies also have issues, issues that are just as large as the ones hardware companies have. All companies are hard to start.