Today, we are very excited to announce that we are adding Jason Dorsey to the team at Next Coast Ventures. Jason is joining our team as a Venture Partner where he will focus on helping Next Coast and its portfolio companies with consumer trends, brand building and customer acquisition.
We have to point out that Jason isn’t your garden variety Venture Partner. He is an expert on digital natives and generational behavior, which means he can help us refine our investment themes and evaluate big trends that impact our investment decisions AND offer invaluable insights to our portfolio companies on their marketing, branding and sales strategies.
Jason’s unique perspective underscores our relentless focus on bringing the best – and outside the box – resources to help our entrepreneurs.
Jason is the president and co-founder of The Center for Generational Kinetics where he leads Millennial and Gen Z research, speaking, and strategy to uncover the hidden, generational drivers that solve tough business challenges. He’s helped reposition global brands to win Millennial customers, advised on billion-dollar acquisitions and taken clients from last to first in employee retention. Last year, the Center worked with 180 clients on four continents in industries ranging from automotive, healthcare, and retail to advertising and technology. Jason wrote his first bestselling book at age 18 and currently serves on the board of directors at Ultimate Software (NASDAQ: ULTI) and continues to advise numerous CEOs and corporate boards.
We are thrilled to have Jason as part of our Venture Partner program and can’t wait to introduce him to our growing portfolio of amazing entrepreneurs! His addition underscores how we are constantly pushing ourselves to think of new ways to help our entrepreneurs and make sure we understand big trends in the marketplace and how the world is changing.
Please join us in welcoming Jason to the Next Coast team! We sat down with him to learn more about his expertise and how he will implement them as part of our Company Building initiatives:
What are you looking forward to about working with a VC? How about Next Coast in particular?
I get fired up talking with the team at Next Coast! As entrepreneurs themselves, their passion for helping other entrepreneurs matches perfectly with my own journey and the impact I want to make in the world. I also appreciate how closely they work with portfolio companies to help them adapt, grow, and carry out their bold vision. That is hard to find and even more rare to receive from VC’s with such a great track record as the Next Coast team.
You often work with very large, established brand names, what are you looking forward to about working with early-stage companies that are still figuring out what their brand is?
Working with early-stage companies and their leaders means they can act on our findings and solutions much faster. The early-stage companies we’ve helped have been able to implement and benefit from our solutions almost immediately; whereas, large companies often take longer for approval, budgeting, and implementation. In addition, the feedback loop with early-stage companies is much shorter, so they can learn and adapt much faster, which is key to success when launching a new venture in new and mature markets.
As an entrepreneur yourself, what resources do you wish you would have had access to when you began your business?
I started my first business at age 18 and slept on a floor for two years. The first resource I wish I had was a bed! Candidly, I wish I had known other, more experienced entrepreneurs who had “been there and survived that.” I wish I had a mentor who had taken a business from zero to success who could have given me a candid perspective and advice on each key aspect of my business as well as opened doors. Being an entrepreneur means managing and learning how to do everything—and often the hard way—from surviving cash flow challenges and developing employees to navigating relationships with Global 100 companies. Shortening the learning curve by having experienced help or investors would have enabled me to focus on my strengths and the areas I’m most passionate so we could’ve grown faster. While I still think it’s best to learn by doing, some of the lessons involved in scaling a company are faster learned (and avoided!) through a more experienced entrepreneur sharing their experience.
“com·pa·ny build·ing (noun): a hands-on approach to helping scale businesses were we use our past experience as entrepreneurs to help other entrepreneurs succeed.”
Jason’s obstacles when he began his business ring all too true for us, everybody at Next Coast has sat in the entrepreneur’s seat at one point in their career – and we all wish we had more resources when we first began our businesses. That’s why we implement our Company Building approach and dedicate so much time and resources to making sure it offers effective tools to our entrepreneurs.
How can your research and expertise help entrepreneurs grow their businesses?
Entrepreneurs are generally trying to solve an urgent problem and build a business around their unique solution. Most of the time, the problem is driven, or heavily influenced, by generational differences and emerging trends. We see this in everything from technology adoption and retail experience to changing dynamics in the workplace. Our custom research brings accurate data to the trends that are driving—or limiting—an entrepreneur’s business. We then show them how to make these generational trends their advantage to fast-track growth. Our research-based insights and specific solutions inform new marketing campaigns, drive sales results, improve workplace strategies, and advance innovation—all must-have components for an entrepreneur to quickly scale their business. The way I look at it, entrepreneurs have enough challenges to face, and being wrong or blind to a generation’s hidden drivers or behaviors can crush a great business idea. Our research provides truth and data to entrepreneurs so that they can make smart decisions fast.
What is the most common mistake you see businesses make when it comes to understanding their consumers?
Too often they focus solely on what we term “tracking data.” They look at sales, impressions, employee retention, customer satisfaction, etc. This data is important, but it does not reveal the “why” behind the behavior. In fact, tracking data is by definition a measure of an outcome that happened in the past. If we are to change the outcome going forward, we need to understand the thinking, influences, decision-making, and behavioral drivers that led to the outcome in the first place.
What would you say to an entrepreneur who thinks your research isn’t relevant to growing their business?
We haven’t found an industry that can’t benefit from accurately understanding generations of employees and customers and the drivers underlying their behaviors. Almost everything you and I do on a daily basis is in some way influenced by our own generational experience—from how we communicate and shop to how we work and interact with an experience. By understanding generations in the context of your own business, industry, and marketplace—as well as your own generation–you have the immediate advantage of being able to faster connect with and influence people of different generations. This can make a massive difference in your business’ success or failure as well as in your own leadership results.
Your expertise isn’t typical of a Venture Partner at a VC firm, if you were at a cocktail party, how would you describe The Center for Generational Kinetics and its work?
We separate generational myth from truth. We dive into the headlines and trends that influence executive decisions to see what is right, wrong or just misunderstood. For example, there is a perception that Millennials are using credit cards more than other generations—yet they’re actually using them less. Millennials are also not all “unemployed and living in their parents’ basement;” they are actually the largest generation in the U.S. workforce and the largest percentage of managers. From a consumer perspective, you hear all the time that Millennials are out of money, yet they’ll outspend every other generation this year and drive most major consumer trends. Our research firm has also uncovered that the Millennial generation is splitting in two. In fact, the group most offended by Millennials acting entitled are other Millennials who do not feel entitled. We’ve also discovered that Millennials are not tech savvy; they are tech dependent. And here is a sneak peek from our latest national research: Gen Z could be poised to leapfrog Millennials in the workforce. Plus, they are also proving to be more financially conservative than the previous generation.