Alumni

Brian Laung Aoaeh, KEC Ventures & Stern Alumnus

Brian Laung Aoaeh, a partner at KEC Ventures and an NYU Alumnus (Stern MBA '08) shares his insights on entrepreneurship and a customer-centric focus

I sat down with current Partner at KEC Ventures, Brian Laung Aoaeh, to profile his experience for a book on venture capital titled Finding Genius. Brian shared valuable insights from his experience as a venture investor and working with founders early in the process of trying to build their startups into companies. I will synthesize these insights against the greater context of Finding Genius but the transcript of our conversation offers an unadulterated glimpse into how Brian approaches entrepreneurship and investing.

Brian emphasizes the importance of focusing on the customers’ needs early on and not getting distracted by the ‘shiny things’ that often tempt entrepreneurs. Brian says,

"The startup also has to decide what they want to do with their limited resources, keeping in mind that activities that most immediately benefit the customer will yield the most advantage for the startup. I boil this all down to the customer. If a strategy or move is not something that's going to directly benefit the customer, then don't do it. When I'm talking to founders, I am always listening to discern if they are focused on their customers. This singular focus on the customer, this customer-centeredness, so to speak - that is what becomes the brand. If customers have a negative experience with a startup’s product, that will become that startup’s brand. If they have a positive experience when they interact with a startup’s product, then that will become that startup’s brand. Winning customers’ trust is hard. Founders can get distracted by other shiny things when things are not going as well as they have been led to expect. They start going to numerous conferences, talking on numerous panels, and things of that sort. Those are distractions from a customer-centric approach." 

Brian goes on to argue that entrepreneurial ‘genius’ is having the humility to identify the areas where a founder is lacking in certain knowledge, expertise, or skill, and surrounding oneself with people who complement the founder, people who can become among the best at what they do. He believes it takes a team to accomplish what great entrepreneurs set out to accomplish, a team with a strong sense of mission. His goal is to find such teams, and to back them as they attempt the impossible.

Brian’s investment focus is supply chain, internet infrastructure, and transportation. Brian is also a CFA charterholder — a process that took him 9 years to complete. More recently, he’s started The New York Supply Chain Meetup, a community of practice he hopes will come to be at the forefront of conversations about building the global supply chains of the future.

Read more of Brian's insights here.