We chatted with Luke Armour ’13, founder of Chaac Ventures, to learn more about his journey as an entrepreneur. Armour will be at the eHub on March 29 for a Q&A with Kristen Sonday ’09, co-founder and COO of Paladin and one of our OfficeHours mentors. Learn more about the event here.
When did you first become interested in entrepreneurship?
As a senior, I was lucky enough to take Ed Zschau’s “High Tech Entrepreneurship,” and it was one of the most interesting and inspiring courses I took at Princeton. A lot of college students were starting internet and cloud-based businesses back then and in the summer after my sophomore year, I was fortunate to land an internship at a venture capital firm in New York. After that experience, I really caught the startup and venture capital bug.
Why did you decide to start Chaac Ventures?
At the time, I was working in Los Angeles at a software-focused venture capital firm, and I started to receive calls, emails and LinkedIn messages from various Princeton alums, asking advice on where they might go to raise seed capital for their tech startup.
After doing a bit of research, I discovered that while many schools had supporting ecosystems that connected alumni investors with new graduate founders (Stanford being the gold standard), Princeton’s was much less developed. I felt there was a great opportunity to facilitate connections within the Princeton community, and to help support Princeton’s tech movement.
As an entrepreneur, what challenges have you experienced along the way?
Like any startup, Chaac experiences both expected and unexpected challenges. While you might have a vision out of the starting gate, that vision gets refined with new information, or market dynamics lead you to choose a new perspective. No matter what, survival dictates that you must be able to make adjustments and learn quickly along the way. You can read a book about venture capital, but there are many unique challenges, such as structuring deals properly, that you learn by doing. We continue to learn every day.
Despite the long hours, it really doesn’t feel like work to me. Every day I have the chance to meet and work with amazing and ambitious entrepreneurs in fields that are truly on the cutting edges of technology.
And when I encounter obstacles or have questions (which is frequently), there is often someone in the Princeton community who can help guide me through them – professors, recent grads, or established experts in fields ranging from astrophysics to digital media to health care. I’m really grateful to have so much support.
Do you have any advice for Tigers looking to start a startup?
Three things I’d say:
First, stop deferring to others (so much). This was the advice I received from one of my mentors in 2015 when I was just starting Chaac Ventures. Her point wasn’t meant to be taken literally for every single scenario, but the general idea is that in most cases, we spend far too much time sourcing the input of others, when really, we have everything we need to make a strong, educated decision.
The second piece of advice, would be to meditate. The entrepreneurial experience is a fast and wild ride. In the same day, entrepreneurs can experience the highest highs followed by some very low lows, and sometimes this can occur within the same hour.
There’s nothing I’ve found to be more relaxing, calming, and energizing, than to take 10 minutes to sit in a quiet place and breathe deeply. The exercise of “thinking of nothing” works out the same muscle in the brain that reminds us to stay focused on what’s in front of us.
If I go on a stretch for a couple of weeks without meditating, I find myself to misplace my keys or wallet, lose track of conversations, and get distracted by the lightest notification or reminder if I see it. Meditation helps me focus.
Lastly, recognize that you are going to make mistakes. Learn from them and don’t get discouraged. Take pride it what you accomplish every day. I constantly say to myself “my best was good for today, tomorrow I’ll do better.”