7 Questions for Oxygen’s Celebrity Entrepreneur Ido LefflerThe 'Quit Your Day Job' investor shares his business secrets, including what he looks for in investments and why you don't need to have all the answers.
Ido Leffler started his first business, a fresh bagel delivery service, as a teenager. Ten years ago he founded Yes To Inc., a carrot-based skincare brand that he built into an international success, with products sold in 24 countries. He also serves as an advisor or board member for such companies as Dell, Soma water and Spark New Zealand.
He’s now putting his knowledge and on-the-job experience to use as an investor on the series “Quit Your Day Job,” airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Oxygen.
Leffler was previously acquainted with the show’s other celebrity investors Randi Zuckerberg, Sarah Prevette and Lauren Maillian, “and that made for good teamwork and really great TV. I think it’s going to encourage a lot of people to step up and make the next generation of entrepreneurs come to life.”
If you’re one of those entrepreneurs, you’ll benefit from the valuable insights he shares here.
What do you look for in the entrepreneurs you invest in?
First and foremost, we’re looking for people that were passionate about their idea; people who truly wanted to quit their day job and wanted to take that leap of faith.
Secondly, we’re looking for a product or a service that’s unique and different and has the ability to become the next big thing. I invest in companies with my business partners and look for exactly the same thing: passionate, driven people who truly want to make an impact for themselves, their families and their shareholders.
Do you have a checklist of criteria they have to meet, or is it just a hunch or gut feeling?
Inevitably, after you’ve been investing for a while, you recognize certain tells and know what to look for, whether you should or shouldn’t invest in someone. We look for people who know their stuff, know their numbers, are willing to admit they don’t know everything.
And in my personal case, I look for businesses that have purpose linked to what they are doing, companies that can help the world become a better place. In the first 18 months of Yoobi we’ve been able to supply free school supplies to over 1.4 million kids in the U.S. These days it’s very easy to do that and fold it into your business model.
What makes a product truly innovative?
It’s something no one has seen before, or it’s a variation of something people know really well. I like variations of things people know really well because educating a market is hard, but showing them that you’ve improved something already on the market is great.
What kind of preparation should entrepreneurs do before they meet with an investor?
First, figure out how long it’s going to take to get to the meeting. The amount of people that run late is staggering. Arriving early is the first sign that you’re serious. I used to turn up to my meetings 30 minutes early.
The second thing is make sure that you know your numbers and make sure that they’re real. Nobody likes to see a business that’s just an idea on a piece of paper. Be humble. Be ready to take questions and admit you don’t know something. An investor is not expecting you to know everything but we expect to know the basics of what you’re pitching.
What lessons from your life shaped your business career?
My parents emigrated from Israel to Australia when I was 4 years old. They made tremendous success of themselves only to lose it all. To watch my family go through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship was definitely a learning curve that I will never forget, and to watch them build it up after the big loss was even more exciting and more interesting to learn. That lives with me every single day of my life. You’re going to make mistakes every day. It’s how you respond to them that is going to differentiate you from being a success and being a failure.
Your businesses are very diverse. Is there a new sector you’d like to explore?
The one area that I’m interested in is education. I love everything about educating kids. I don’t think there’s any other time in history where kids have had it so lucky with how much access they have to information. I want to show my daughters and kids around the world that they can become entrepreneurs and leaders.
What are the most important keys to a startup’s success?
We have three pillars to determine the success of our companies: Incredible people, kick-ass product and an awesome cause. If you have all of these you have a real win. That’s what made us successful and I think what will make others successful, too.