In Raikes School talk, Capricorn’s Uphoff outlines entrepreneurial traits
Years ago, Barry Uphoff developed a survey to gauge whether a person is a good fit for a business opportunity. The survey got cut from the book he was contributing to at the time, “Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance.”
But it came in handy Friday when Uphoff (left, photo from unl.edu), a partner with Palo Alto-based investment group Capricorn Investment Group, spoke at the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
It also came in handy for Nick Minekime, a former colleague of Uphoff’s who sought his advice several years ago when he was considering leaving the financial services field to attend business school and become an entrepreneur in solar and renewable energy. During Friday’s speech, Uphoff used Minekime as an example of how the survey works.
The survey asks a person to rank 10 attributes, from his best to his worst:
- Leadership and project management
- Deep subject matter experience
- Writing skills
- Financial and qualitative skills
- Commercial skills (a person’s knack for and experience in making money)
- Work ethic
- Attention to detail
- Teamwork and ability to work with others
There’s no wrong answer, Uphoff said, but ranking “intelligence” first is usually a red flag.
Uphoff showed the Raikes School audience a typical ranking for a strong entrepreneur. Generally, successful entrepreneurs have deep subject matter experience, work ethic, intelligence and perseverance in their top four. A typical entrepreneur’s ranking then continues in roughly this order: attention to detail, commercial skills, leadership and project management, teamwork and ability to work with others and writing skills.
Self-awareness is also important, Uphoff said, especially in knowing when you need help in an area. And “good luck never hurts,” Uphoff stressed several times. “Good luck is always needed at some point.”
Minekime’s dilemma was his lack of “deep experience” in solar and renewable energy, which he ranked last. After conversations with Uphoff, he decided to forego business school and join a market investment firm in Washington D.C. There, he has been able to use his financial services experience to work with renewable energy entrepreneurs.
“They think he’s the best thing since sliced bread, because he has skills the entrepreneurs don’t have,” Uphoff said. In the meantime, Minekime’s also collecting deeper experience in renewable energy.
Uphoff has several Nebraska connections. He is a native of Columbus, Neb., and his firm, Capricorn, is one of six investors that contributed to Nebraska Global’s recent $17.7 million capital raise. He also serves on the board of Omaha-based Streck Inc.
Uphoff’s investment specialty is the health care field. He highlighted a few of Capricorn’s current health care-related investments, including:
- Visiting Physicians’ Association, which provides 180,000 physician house calls per year in eight states and delivers other health-related services to patients’ homes, including mobile diagnostics and radiology, pharmacy, medical equipment, home health care and hospice.
- HeartFlow, which uses software integrated with CT machines to model a patient’s blood flow through coronary arteries and help doctors choose among treatment options without invasive diagnostic methods.
Uphoff said opportunities at the intersection of health care and technology include finding ways to improve payment collection and reduce patient errors.