Message to Potential CSI Entrepreneurs

One of the few benefits of my advancing age, is the sense that I am justified in providing unsolicited advice.


I was 39 when I started CSI. I had 4 kids, all under the age of 10, a modest house, and a mortgage. I drove a Toyota Camry and my wife had an ancient Chrysler minivan. I knew how to work ridiculously hard, and I had a decade of experience in the venture industry. That decade taught me how to collaborate with small, motivated teams, and the difference between a good and a bad business. I badly wanted to start a business where I would be fulfilled. 


The most important revelation of my venture career was that vertical market software businesses have great economics but had been poor venture capital investments because they served small markets. To start CSI, I tweaked the normal venture capital playbook in an unusual way, concentrating upon the permanent ownership of many small vertical market software businesses that could share best practices. The rest, as they say, is history.


I tell this story to give two pieces of advice: 1) you don't have to be a twenty-something year old with no dependents to start a business, and 2) it is hugely advantageous to start that business in a sector where you have an "earned secret".


VMS Ventures will finance dozens of CSI employee entrepreneurs. We are seeking CSI employees who have demonstrated a burning desire to win, an enormous capacity for sustained effort, and an intimate knowledge of their vertical. We expect that their effort and experience has imbued them with an earned secret… knowledge of an opportunity in their industry that isn't obvious and will allow them to be an early mover, parlaying their secret into a sustainable competitive advantage. 


With the earned secret clear in your mind, we believe that your drive, intelligence, and vision will attract a small group of bright and motivated folks to join you in creating the sort of business in which you've always wanted to work.  


So, what's the next step? Approach your business unit manager and tell them about your idea. If the idea is attractive and small enough, they may fund it from their BU's cash flow. If the idea requires a larger investment (either immediately or after an initial investment by the business unit) and has the potential to turn into a $10MM+ opportunity over the next decade, either you or your business unit manager are welcome to approach VMS Ventures about making an investment.


If you don't have your earned secret crisply defined yet, or if you are still thinking through how to recruit a team or how to approach your business unit manager, feel free to contact VMS Ventures' Karl Schabas ( /416 704 7957) to brainstorm your nascent ideas. 


Mark Leonard

CSI founder