Sean Brown has always been a self-starter. Brown is the founder and CEO of GO VC, an early-stage venture capital firm that helps startups bring their visions to life. The firm has grown, and helped others grow, by providing businesses with media buys, programmers, and other infrastructure needs in addition to capital funding. We caught up with Sean to find out about his firm, the state of investing, and the impacts of COVID-19.
What was the idea behind starting GO VC?
“I’ve been starting businesses since high school, and investing was the next logical step,” said Brown, an Orange County native with offices in Irvine, California. “GO VC makes it easier to partner with entrepreneurs and great people who are creating value, which is what I would have wanted when I was starting out.”
What are some things you have learned since you started this journey?
Brown found that supplying startup capital wasn’t as fulfilling as working closely with business owners who were striving to succeed. To that end, GO VC commits resources to operations, marketing, and infrastructure so owners can focus on the aspects of their companies that they’re most excited about. “When I started GO VC, I didn’t want it to be just another corporate, faceless venture capital firm,” said Brown. “I’ve found that supporting passionate entrepreneurs who are focused on the big picture, but aren’t as interested in the day-to-day, can have a really positive impact.”
Do you have a specific industry or geographic focus for your investments
GO VC has become a standout investor in the tech startup space with a portfolio of digital marketing, software, and other online companies. But Brown says that nothing is off the table when it comes to new ventures. “As the online space gets more saturated, we’ve become more interested in differentiators, regardless of where the business is selling,” Brown said. “Brick-and-mortar or companies that combine online and offline services with the right plans can be a great fit for us.”
How many investments do you make per year, and what is your average investment size?
GO VC is a boutique firm that works closely with the companies they invest in, which keeps their average annual number of new investments in the single digits. But that discretion makes it easy to commit to the right opportunity when the time is right, Brown said. “We’re fortunate enough to have the resources to support the right people with the right ideas, no matter how big or small,” Brown said. “We’ve done five-figure deals, seven-figure deals — it just depends on what the startup needs and how well our visions for growth match up.
How Will the Outbreak of COVID-19 Affect the Entrepreneur and Startup Ecosystem?
The COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent isolation orders have obviously had a major impact on all businesses, and the entrepreneur and startup ecosystem is no exception. While Brown is still pursuing investments and partnerships with new companies, he’s also experiencing the effects firsthand. “I’ve been seeing people hold onto their assets more, and they’re less willing to put money into things that might seem like a gamble,” Brown said. “Investing in startups is also changing because of ripple effects from the outbreak like unemployment, falling oil prices, and other factors.”
How do you maintain your professional and personal life?
Despite the adversity in the marketplace, Brown is relying on short-term silver linings and a long view of the economy to maintain a positive outlook. “It’s been great to take a breath and spend more time with my family, even in these terrible circumstances,” Brown said. “And I’ve worked with enough business owners and leaders to know that once things start to re-open, we’ll come back strong.” Extra time at home might be unusual for some entrepreneurs. But Brown’s professional and personal life is surprisingly balanced for someone with so many plates spinning. He says that his own ambition is fueled by wanting to provide for his wife and two young children, who are the top priority in his life. “I work hard, but nothing is more important than my wife and kids, who are still really young,” Brown said. Even now, if I’m on a conference call and my kids come in the room, I just let them come in. I don’t want to be the dad who sends them away, you know?”
Any piece of advice you would like to give to up-and-coming entrepreneurs?
With his family providing motivation, Sean Brown says that he draws inspiration from the up-and-coming entrepreneurs he meets. Their enthusiasm and creativity make it easy to go to work — and their resilience will make going back to work possible when the COVID-19 threat passes. “When I meet entrepreneurs and startup owners who want advice, I always tell them two things. The first is ‘don’t be afraid to fail early,’ which is a must if you’re going to grow your business,” Brown said. The second is ‘trust the timing,’ which, even in this crazy moment, I think is still important. There’s going to be opportunities to rebuild and create something new after this pandemic, and the entrepreneurs who provide value in those gaps are going to come out on top.”