Anis Uzzaman of Pegasus Tech Ventures: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times
Make sure that customers are also confident in your leadership. It’s important they believe that the company can keep its promises and commitments. Customers might be worried about continuing to do business with the startup. Share information about the company’s sound health and give customers confidence in the future.
As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Anis Uzzaman.
Anis Uzzaman is CEO & General Partner of Pegasus Tech Ventures. Anis oversees all investments and operations at the firm. Located in Silicon Valley, Pegasus Tech Ventures has $2 billion in assets under management and provides early stage to final round funding. Anis has invested in over 230 startups in the United States, Japan, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Some of these companies include SpaceX, DoorDash, Robinhood, SoFi, 23andMe, Airbnb, Bird, and more. He is also Chairman of the Startup World Cup, an annual global startup pitch competition with 70+ regional events across the 6 continents and a $1 million investment prize.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Early in my career, I worked at well-known technology corporations including IBM and Cadence. During this time, I gained extensive knowledge about each company’s M&A practice since corporations often invest in and/or acquire startups. Working closely with these startups inspired me to become an entrepreneur myself in the venture capital industry. I founded my own firm in 2011, taking control of my own destiny and giving me the chance to have a hands-on impact on the success of entrepreneurs around the globe. Their creativity and passion to change the world keeps me inspired every day.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There are common mistakes that I see entrepreneurs typically make. One piece of advice is for startup founders to be flexible in starting a company. While a founder needs to pursue their original ideas, he or she also needs adapt in responding to market changes and customer feedback. Also, they should be careful to hire diverse employees with a diverse set of skills. This will augment the skills that the founder already has. Finally, I advise entrepreneurs that they must understand the market and have a unique selling proposition to succeed.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Yes, one particulate corporate colleague (and supervisor) was especially creative and came from startup world. He inspired me, giving me the courage and education to help me become an entrepreneur. I developed my initial ideas based on his inspiration and I’m grateful for his help.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your organization started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
The mission of Pegasus Tech Ventures is driven by the goal of enhancing human life through innovation. We invest in scalable startups that can grow regionally and globally. Pegasus also helps startups partner with global corporations, enabling them to scale in their respective markets. Through our Startup World Cup platform, we’re creating a global ecosystem supporting entrepreneurship around the world. This leads to increased employment and ideas that will improve people’s lives.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
It’s always challenging to start a new business, as it was when I left the stable corporate world to launch Pegasus Tech Ventures. Throughout the years, in good and bad times I’ve chosen to lead Pegasus by sharing a compelling vision and instilling confidence in our employees. It’s critical to let employees know about the company’s challenges, yet still give them a reason to believe we will succeed due to our solid business strategy.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
As I grew the company from zero to a multi-billion-dollar asset class, I’ve experienced difficult times when I considered going back to the corporate world and becoming an employee again. At one point, two major investors backed out and I was put back to zero. It’s challenging to be a VC and to raise money; I decided to give it one more shot. I decided to change my approach and style, switching to a volume approach and ultimately having more success.
I’m an author and I believe that books have the power to change lives. Do you have a book in your life that impacted you and inspired you to be an effective leader? Can you share a story?
The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. The book is built around the idea of inspiring entrepreneurs to build a business when there are no easy answers. Ben understands the problems that confront leaders every day and he strives to share the insights he’s gained in developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Leadership means leading by example. A strong leader should be precise with their communications and follow the same guidelines that he or she gives their team members. Communication is an opportunity — but also a potential barrier — since it determines whether your team will go your direction or not. I believe in over communicating — but with limited, precise language.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Give the team confidence in your leadership direction. Be over-communicative with the team to provide positive influence. It is important to be transparent and try to handle hardships without impacting manpower. Take on the hard times together, making it a team responsibility. Encourage staff to share ideas and brainstorm solutions.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
I believe that it’s critical to be as transparent as possible with one’s team and with customers. While it may be tempting to hope that your employees or customers won’t find out about negative news, the reality is that news spreads quickly. It’s better to get ahead of the problem and share news early. Equally important, explain your plans about fixing what is causing this bad news. This will inspire people to stick with you.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
The future is always unpredictable, but this shouldn’t prevent you from planning ahead. I recommend that startup founders build a business plan that includes a realistic growth scenario, but also worst- and best-case scenarios. This will help a startup founder move forward proactively, knowing the what type of constraints they will face if business doesn’t materialize according to their original plans.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Become creative about the company’s offerings. Repackage or position your products to keep sales running. Make fast decisions and execute quickly to change business model and still meet business needs. Be flexible and nimble to adjust to the times as needed.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
At times, companies don’t change their offerings and they expect the market to react the same way they do during good times. During difficult times, consider changing offerings, prices, and the company’s marketing approach to continue growing revenue and attracting new customers.
Company leadership might be fearful of the market situation, which might lead them to scare their own employees and ultimately poison team morale. Another common mistake is that companies don’t change their spending habits. Leaders need to examine what is critical and prioritize between major and minor projects.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- First of all, understand the economics of the company and the risk. This means understanding annual projections and how much of it will come true; make sure it is realistic. Understand the minimum and maximum risk, and how to address them in different scenarios.
- Understand the company’s major and minor goals, including priority objectives and what can wait. It’s important to prioritize and focus on what is most critical for short and long-term success.
- Make sure employees are confident in the company’s leadership. This will help ensure that they are not scared off, and it will give them confidence that the business will survive tough times. Even in a negative market, it’s important to protect a startup’s employees.
- Make sure that customers are also confident in your leadership. It’s important they believe that the company can keep its promises and commitments. Customers might be worried about continuing to do business with the startup. Share information about the company’s sound health and give customers confidence in the future.
- Especially during difficult times, founders need to think about growth by finding new product or packaging ideas. Customers may also be stressed about a lack of capital. Make your services and solutions more relevant and available to customers in an affordable way.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m a great admirer of former President Barack Obama; his life and career serve as an inspiration. During his speeches, he typically does not say many words, but he makes sure that each word carries a great deal of weight. Especially given the impact of COVID-19 and our currently divisive global community, this is one of my favorite Obama quotes:
“Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us.”
Whether I’m speaking to our Pegasus employee team or giving a global keynote, I work hard to be concise yet share meaningful information. I have carried over this style to my day-to-day professional communications: Simple communications, being brief and precise.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram to find out the latest about Pegasus and our startup community. I’m also an active contributor to Forbes, Inc., and Entrepreneur where I share my insights about corporate innovation, entrepreneurship, and venture capital.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Anis Uzzaman of Pegasus Tech Ventures: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.