dot.LA Summit: John Suh’s Advice to Startups Raising Funding, 'Embrace the Cold Call'
John Suh’s lengthy career spinning startups into billion-dollar companies began with a cold call to an investor he was hoping would back his startup. The off-the-cuff reachout ended up being a key step in Suh’s journey to running a billion-dollar company in LegalZoom.
Prior to LegalZoom, Suh tried to build a startup for fashion companies to manage inventory, called Wardrobe.com. He told Yung that one of his first contacts was Harvard Business School professor and chairman of Fung Group Victor Fung, who he called on a whim.
“They had a venture capital arm in San Francisco and basically, I cold called them,” Suh explained. He joked that he told Fung he was “in San Francisco for three weeks,” when in reality he was sharing an apartment with his co-founder in L.A. But when Fung was eager to meet, Suh got a plane ticket immediately to meet with him in the Bay Area. After their meeting, Fung became a backer of Suh’s and also helped connect him with other investors.
Suh spent 12 years as chief executive officer of Glendale-based legal technology startup LegalZoom. He departed in 2019 to focus on investing and moved to Seoul, South Korea, to teach at Sookmyung Women's University and open a family office. By the time Suh left, under his leadership the company grew 25-fold. He’s since remained on the board as a senior adviser.
During a discussion with Mark Yung, chief operating officer of Pacific Western Bank at dot.LA’s 2022 summit Suh extolled the virtues of a startup founder, eager to connect with investors that share their vision.
This sort of non-traditional method of seeking out funders is valuable, Suh said, because it shows potential investors that the startup founder is not only interested in their perspective, but willing to connect at any cost.
“You flex around their time, and you need to find the person that loves what you do and may understand it better than you,” Suh said.
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