[Casavva Chats] Dimitris Kouvaros


[Casavva Chats] is a monthly series capturing eclectic conversations with the people we meet along the journey of building our humble company. 

Dimitris Kouvaros - Between Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital.

Dimitris is a New York native, born and raised here in Flushing, NY. He has had a very dynamic tech career, jumping back and forth between entrepreneurship and venture capital several times. Currently he is at Newark Venture Partners, a venture fund accelerator started by Don Katz, CEO of Audible. We are delighted to count Dimitris as an early supporter and close friend of Casavva.

Would you rather be an entrepreneur or a venture capitalist (VC)?
I’d much rather be the person behind the curtain, as opposed to being the frontrunner. I think it’s way more rewarding if you’re at the back ‘cause you get to see a lot more. From a VC’s perspective, I much rather build a knowledge base on 30 different sectors instead of just one and meet a lot of interesting people in the process.

What got you into the VC world?
When you start your own company, you want your one company to succeed. But when you’re a venture capitalist, you want all of your companies to succeed. So I myself, I wanted to have 10 or 20 companies succeed with me being behind them, trying to help them out with strategy, customer, clients, money, you name it. Which is why I liked working at SVB (Silicon Valley Bank) before; I think I worked on ~500 companies. And it’s also why I like working at NVP (Newark Venture Partners) now, because I get to work with, at this point, 15+ companies that are growing.

What is one lesson that you learned from your unsuccessful ventures?
Everyone is going to give you a lot of advice and a lot of them will be conflicting...so literally, go to a whiteboard and list down everything you receive, never erase anything and just test everything out. Sometimes the dumbest advice that you ever receive might be the best one. In my case, Seth Godin gave us what seemed like the worst advice, but it ended up being the model that actually moved us forward, raised money and became acquired. So take all the advice, think about it, don’t discredit anything.

Name one entrepreneur that you’re following closely right now.
Well, if you’re asking just anyone...shout out to my boy Mahmud! In seriousness, I’m following Sean Petterson closely -- he’s CEO and co-founder at one of my portfolio companies Strong Arm. They have built an exoskeleton for industrial athletes such as factory workers and warehouse workers. Sean has so much knowledge about the space and he is fending off so many things at the same time. But his company is succeeding beyond whatever people tell him. And they are a very strong team.

If Sean asks you for lunch, what’s your pick?
Souvlaki GR -- it’s in the lower east side on Stanton street. It’s amazing.

What would you wear to the lunch?
My Charcoal Herringbone Casavva shirt. (<--We didn’t pay Dimitris to say that!)

What’s one thing that you’ve never told somebody in an interview?
If I wasn’t doing venture capital, I would love to be a farmer and fish during the day.

Where do you follow and get your daily news?
Traditional sources like TechCrunch, Venture Beat, Pando. I also use a lot of blogs like Fred Wilson’s blog and Mark Suster’s blog.

What are you working on currently?
We are now finding companies for our next accelerator class, starting on April 3rd. So my days are finding those companies, meeting them as many times as possible and saying yes or no. If you are a startup tech company, please reach out!

Do you have any pet peeves of companies pitching you?
Make sure you have done your research as opposed to dropping me something that’s still an idea or prototype with nothing to back.

Last question, are there any trends that you’re noticing in listening to new pitches?
Yes, everyone loves the terms Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. And everyone wants to hire a Machine learner or Data Scientist. Focus on your company. Machine learning is not going to make your company grow from 1 to 100. It’s really cool to keep in mind but don’t pivot your focus to AI for no reason. Keep your eye on the ball. It will not make your company more effective in seed stage. It will only take up time and resources.