Impact Investing | Kimbal Musk’s Words of Wisdom

I attended the Impact Investing Collaboratory in Boulder last week and the keynote speaker was Kimbal Musk — serial entrepreneur (first company Zip2, was acquired by Compaq in 1999) and investor/advisor in companies like PayPal (acquired by Ebay), Tesla Motors (Publicly listed: TSLA), SpaceX, OneRiot (acquired by Walmart) and SolarCity. I thought he had a few interesting things to say:

  1. If you are not better than your competition you will die. Many argue that the social impact of a business is a competitive advantage and I agree, but Kimbal pointed out the fact that social impact is not enough. You have to run your business as the best in class AND offer a social impact to be truly successful.
  2. Make money first and social impact second. Kimbal’s current company, the Kitchen, is becoming a true model for sustainable dining, but it is also the highest grossing restaurant in town. Kimbal wisely pointed out that it is much easier to become a model for sustainability if you can financially outperform your competition.
  3. Start saying no to others. One attendee made the wise observation that Kimbal had    a “calm sense of power” and did not seem “frazzled or stressed” despite the fact that he has A LOT on his plate. Kimbal said this is something he works very hard on and he has learned the art of prioritizing his time over others. He said he gets thousands of requests for meetings and has learned the art of saying no and staying focused.

I couldn’t agree more with these three points, however the one thing he did say is that as an entrepreneur, you don’t have the luxury of saying no to prioritize time for yourself. On this point, I actually disagree. While you certainly need to make sacrifices to be a successful  entrepreneur, I think the key to achieving balance is to really understand which meetings are a productive use of your time. And…I think this is KEY for investors as well. The best advice I can give on this point is to read the Four Hour Work Week. It has GREAT tips for avoiding unnecessary meetings and phone calls.

What do you think?

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