My personal philosophy is to pay it forward. A lot of people helped me along the way and so I feel it’s my responsibility to help others be successful.
Richard Frederick is a man of many careers. With over 40 years of experience as an Upstate NY investor, entrepreneur and mentor, he is devoted to achieving his goal of creating jobs and helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses in NY’s Tech Valley.
Frederick started out in healthcare where he spent 25 years, then moved into private companies to build software products. He then transitioned into correctional managed care, where he built healthcare systems for prisons. In the mid-80ies, he started a health care start-up with friends. He then got into the newspaper business where he met a future business Partner, with whom he built a SaaS company know as Autotask in 2001, which sold in 2014 for nine figures.
In August 2010, Richard Frederick co founded the Eastern NY Angels with Joe Richardson, ENYA. In addition to his involvement as an Upstate NY investor through ENYA, he continues to be an active mentor to a number of organizations including the Startfast Venture Accelerator.
Read More -> Eastern NY Angels Develops Successful Approach to Mentoring Entrepreneurs
So far, he has helped over 100 companies as a mentor and he is extremely active in the community. He also serves at the board of UVANY, Glauconix, Vital Vio, ThermoAura where he also serves as COO. And Frederick is a member of the UNY50 Leadership Network.
I am very active for a retired guy, he said.
Richard Frederick believes in hard work and the notion of paying back to the community is critical to him.
We asked him a few questions to learn more about himself and his vision of mentorship.
Where were you born and what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was born and raised in St. James, NY on Long Island. I originally attended school as a biology major but was drafted during the Vietnam War.
What interests you about being an entrepreneur?
I love building things from scratch. Taking an idea and turning it into a successful business is the challenge.
What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
I have had many over the years. The most successful one was Autotask which I started with a partner in 2001 with a $25,000 investment. The company was sold for nine figures in 2014.
What do you wish you knew before starting your first business?
How to determine valuation and work with Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists. As a first time entrepreneur, we believed that VC were our friends. But ultimately their goal is to have a big share of the business. We were successful at the end but we could have been even more successful if we had known how to deal with the VC’s. The value of sweat equity is very important.
What was the best piece of advice you ever got? What was the worst?
Best… go sell something! Worse…take all the money you can from me (VC) and build your company. This was a bad advice, as they gave us more money than we probably needed at the time and we spent it quicker that we should have.
Did you ever have an idea that flopped? What did you learn?
Sure, who hasn’t! The lessons are many but most important is that you don’t have a business until you have revenue.
What’s your best tip for hiring talent and growing culture at a startup?
The fit is critically important. Everyone must have a common vision and desire to win.
Most of the companies that we invested in through ENYA are first time entrepreneurs, some of them are still students. We give them sales and management training, try to help them grow in a position of full time CEO by growing their experience and knowledge.
What’s the most difficult part of being a startup mentor / investor?
Making sure that our entrepreneurs value the lessons we can teach them.
We’ve learnt over time when we go through our evaluation of the company before we decide to invest, we gauge how the CEO reacts to the questions that we ask and recommendations that we make. Because mentoring is such a big part of what we do if we feel the entrepreneur is not “coachable” we walk away from that investment. We look for people who want to be coached, who want to have some experienced people on their side.
What’s your favorite book and why?
Lincoln on Leadership. Brilliant leader with tremendous vision.
What’s your secret to productivity?
Where is your favorite place to travel?
I recently went to Santa Fe and it is very cool.
Share a time when you learned something from your children?
I learn something every day from my kids. They are a little less type A and it has served them well. They have learned how to mix job and family. I was too focused on job. I wish I were a better Dad especially when they were younger.
What can the entrepreneurial community to better in Upstate New York?
We are learning a lot of lessons but the one we need to really focus on is Paying it Forward. We have too many successful entrepreneurs who have yet to join the community and pay it forward. It’s not all about money, it’s about being involved. We have a lot of very successful Upstate NY investors and entrepreneurs. If you have been successful in a business, it’s because other people have helped you along the way, whether you recognize it or not. Once you are successful, I think that you have somewhat of an obligation to pay it forward. We as successful people should help others become successful. A very large percentage of people in our venture funds are like that. They will go out of their way to help somebody. We haven’t learnt that lesson yet, we’re still learning it in Upstate NY.