“You need to have the ability to pivot a lot - and do it quickly”

A professional poker player in his 20’s, focused in Super High Stakes Cash games in places like Macau, André Carmo feels he has been an entrepreneur since a very young age. At 10 years old he would resell toys with small defects to his friends, a mindset that has continued to evolve.

"You need to be passionate about your idea, but you can't completely fall in love with it."
What are you working on right now?

I'm Founder & CEO of Dollar.ai and I’m pretty much involved in all dimensions of the business and technology development. With Dollar.ai we want to take advantage of the latest advances in Machine and Deep Learning, to use both structured and unstructured data to help speed up the entire investment process of investing in privately held companies. We wanted to take a customer centric approach since the very inception of the company. With that in mind we've been running several discovery sessions with potential customers to understand their needs so we’re able to build a product they actually want, from the start. Right now we have a good grasp on their needs and just started coding our first prototype.

Does it solve a specific problem? How will it impact the audience?

We already knew from a few friends, once we started thinking about how to turn this idea into a business, the main pain points: sourcing quality leads, deciding on which ones to invest and then following them once they are on your portfolio. We confirmed this during our discovery sessions. With this approach we also managed to understand the real needs for investors in different stages. An angel investor will deal with completely different issues than those of someone that works with a large VC firm. Dollar.ai will have a big impact on its customers because it will help cut through all the noise when looking for leads outside your network. It will give them better analytics to support investment decisions and allow them to track their companies, comparing them with the entire landscape.

As a founder, what would you say are the most important things to consider when working on an idea?

You need to be passionate about your idea, but you can't completely fall in love with it. I say this because you need to have the ability to pivot a lot and do it quickly. So, it is really about striking a balance between believing in your idea and pushing forward no matter what, but also be able to see things a bit more objectively and change what it takes to make it work in the real world.

What's the hardest challenge you face, and how can founders overcome it?

As a founder you will often be expected to lead people that are way more experienced and smarter than you. So, it is a lot about finding the sweet spot of being a leader and inspiring people to follow you and your vision, and at the same time letting them do their job without too many constraints.

What do you think is the best advice for someone who wants to become a founder?

I would say three things:

  1. Have a safety net, as plans often don't go as expected and instead of spending 3 to 6 months without a paycheck, it can be 12 to 18 months. And when that first paycheck comes, it will often be way below market rate. Having a safety net is important so you can focus on building your company without worrying about paying your rent.
  2. Tied to point 1, don't go into entrepreneurship thinking about short-term recognition and financial success. As many have said, startups are more like a marathon, less of a sprint.
  3. Don't fear change regarding you as a founder and your idea, but always stick to your core values. I think that most of us go into entrepreneurship for the challenge and to better ourselves, and in that process we change and discover weaknesses we didn't know we had. If we stick to our core values, continue moving forward and iterate and pivot our idea, everything will end up falling into place.
"You need to be passionate about your idea, but you can't completely fall in love with it."