Carlos Antequera on Patience and its Role in Networking
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Carlos Antequera, CEO and Co-Founder of Novel Capital, joins host Alana Muller to share how being patient with building professional relationships can results in result in long-term business opportunities. “Giving freely is when you get the most. If you're not willing to be patient a little bit, and be willing to do that, sometimes those rewards or things don't come back to you.”
Alana Muller: Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust, that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they've found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host, Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader, whose primary focus is to connect, inspire, and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode.
Well, hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Enterprise.ing. I'm delighted to have you here today. I want to welcome our incredibly special guest, Carlos Antequera. He is the CEO and co-founder of Novel Capital. Novel's FinTech funding platform breaks down the traditional growth barrier space by today's B2B software companies, and I am delighted to learn more about this. Carlos Antequera, welcome to Enterprise.ing.
Carlos Antequera: Thank you so much. Excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Alana Muller: You are welcome. I want you to start by telling our listeners a little bit more about Novel Capital, and how it empowers entrepreneurs to capitalize on their momentum.
Carlos Antequera: We started Novel Capital a couple of years ago, and really focused around helping entrepreneurs that for one reason or another did not meet the standards that venture capital is looking for, that super high growth, or for some reason didn't have the assets or the collateral or maybe the tools that commercial banks have the ability to provide. And we wanted able to leverage technology that's available now to really help those earliest stage entrepreneurs that may not have all the options, give them one more tool in the tool set to help them grow, which is ultimately what builds value in their companies, builds value for the entrepreneurs, and most of them are excited to do.
Alana Muller: And that's so cool. It's so great that you've been able to find a way to pull in more companies into this space. Whereas, usually there's almost a stereotypical wall that does not allow people to overcome the barrier if they're not perceived as large enough.
Carlos Antequera: You read the articles on TechCrunch and all the startup magazines, and it seems like everybody it's a unicorn. But there are many, many good companies out there that are doing great things, they have great products, great customers, that might not be that proverbial unicorn. And they have missions to accomplish. They have growth that they want to reach. And we think that providing them that opportunity is a great way to diversify the economy, the communities, and bring some other products to market as well.
Alana Muller: I love that. That's so great. Let's talk about you for a minute. Tell me, how do you actively manage your professional network?
Carlos Antequera: It's a constant challenge, right? Because we have the day to day things that we're trying to accomplish and the things that are pulling you one direction or another. But the couple of ways that keep me connected to my network is that I am part of great organizations. One of them that I'm very active on is Kauffman Fellows, which is a global group of up and coming investors and see some investors that are trying to change the way investing happens around the world, right? And that's really a great network, not only nationally but internationally, which we support each other with sometimes ideas, best practices.
And once in a while, right? You're that shoulder to lean on when things are not going the way you want to and that's as important, I think as the hard knowledge, if you will, that you get from people. But just trying to stay connected to those events once in a while, some of those connections become more than just business partners, they become friends. And so that's another way to stay connected. It's a challenge, right? So you're trying to balance family, balance personal relationships, work that you have to do in the business, but at the same time you want to stay connected with those networks that help you and then you can help as well.
Alana Muller: Well, and what you're reminding us is that by being involved with various organizations and in this case, Kauffman Fellows, which is a phenomena organization, what's neat about that is exactly as you described, they're not only your professional cohort, but an ear to lean on when you need some advice or you need to just vent about what's going on in your own business, but then you become friends. It's bringing together every part of your world. So, I think that is just a perfect reminder that it's important to get involved in these kinds of things.
Carlos Antequera: Definitely. And I think it's... Whenever you can align the values that drive you to some of those organizations and networks that you're involved, that really gives you that energy to continue to be involved, right? And you cannot be involved in all the things that you want to do and support everybody but whenever you can, and that keeps feeding the engine.
Alana Muller: Fabulous. I want to stay on this thread. What are some ways that you make connections mutually beneficial? So how do you give back and show mutual appreciation with your network, whether it's through a formal networking channel or otherwise?
Carlos Antequera: To me one of those things... as I was saying, align to the values is really being able to connect with the first time founders or entrepreneurs that are early in the journey, and being able to make myself available for when they have questions or they want some tips or just they're going through a hard time and they want that feedback of some of the things that I might have gone through. And if I can share one of... or two of those stories, those are really meaningful for those folks, right?
And sometimes I don't think you realize the impact that you might be having because... or you might be trivial, but those 30 minutes that you might have given somebody, you might have inspired that person. It may have changed the direction that they take their company on and you never know. So, one of the points I try to make is I generally say, "I'll give 30 minutes to anybody that's willing to put the energy into reaching out, and now it might not be tomorrow. Sometimes you might have to schedule within a week away, but I'll make it happen if you're putting the energy out there," definitely it's worth me putting my energy. I get as much as I put in as well, right?
I don't know how many times I’m talking to younger founders or early entrepreneurs, it makes me think about some basic things that you tend to forget. And it maintains the empathy, right? To recognize the entrepreneurial journey is hard and sometimes you forget as you build your business a little bit about the earlier days, and it's good sometimes to remember that.
Alana Muller: Okay. I just love what you said. I just... To me, just this notion that anybody's willing to put in the energy, you're willing to find a way to connect with them and 30 minutes of your time. And this is not about necessarily giving somebody a job or funding somebody, it's simply about listening, finding out in what ways you might be able to add value. And I agree with you, I think we always get at least as much in return. It might not be a one to one value exchange, but I do think that it always comes back to us. So, I just love that you said that.
Carlos Antequera: Yeah. And that reminds me of a story, actually, another great organization in Kansas City is the Health For Mentorship Program. And I haven't been as involved over the last few years, but I was part of the program in my earlier years of entrepreneurship. And I remember one of the mentors there, very early I was trying to reach him, I thought he had a lot of experience. I really wanted to pick his brain and he asked me, "Hey, I'll be happy to meet with you. Meet me for breakfast at 7:30 in the morning on this upcoming Sunday." And I went, I met, it was a great experience. And then he actually told me, "I am purposeful in the time I choose to meet with entrepreneurs. I asked you to meet Sunday morning, early morning to see how much you really wanted to meet." And that was his filter, right? If you're not willing to put that energy to meet Sunday early morning, then it must not be that important to you. So, why will I put my energy? And I thought that was very clever. I've always remembered that.
Alana Muller: Incredibly clever. I think that's great. I think it's great. I want to shift gears a little bit. One of the things I remember early on when I began my networking business, I remember coming into contact through a presentation that I was giving with a group of female entrepreneurs, none of whom were from the United States. And I remember feeling nervous that my approach to networking may or may not be of relevance to them in the cultures or from the countries that they came from.
And one of the things that was super gratifying and exciting to me following that presentation is that they all understood the value of networking. And sure, there might be some things that needed to be acculturated a little bit differently in one country or another, but it just reaffirmed for me that networking is a human activity, it is not country specific. It is not geographically based. It is something that we all need as human beings. And so with that in mind, I was so interested to learn that you immigrated to the United States from La Paz, Bolivia when you were 18 years old. And so what I want to hear from you about is, in what ways has this impacted the way that you build community connections and how has networking impacted your business?
Carlos Antequera: Definitely a journey from the Highland of Bolivia to Kansas City. But I would say in the beginning, to be honest, I did not have a notion of networking. I didn't know what networking was. It wasn't until I started my previous business, Netchemia, that I actually remember one of the first meetings that I attended was one by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, it was in one of those meetings that I had the opportunity to meet a couple of people that ended up being mentors of mine, and really showed me the ropes a little bit about how networking was done, the importance of it. And little by little you start realizing the power of it, and also best practices and expectations and so on. But I think you hit a very important point, which is at the end of the day it's about human connection.
It's about relationships, it's about human interaction and that translated to the business world, right? And those are activities that are common to all of us. So, yeah, there's a little bit of the adjustment of how you... maybe the tactical things of how you interact with people, what people expect, do you want to get right into the business from the first meeting, or is it about maybe more slow pace and getting to know each and maybe a little bit of the personal side of things, right? In Latin America it tends to be a little bit more slow paced, to almost get a sense a little bit more of who you are as a person before jumping right into the business side of things. But you adapt, I think to all the cultures and now with the globalization, I think folks are more and more used to different cultures and different ways of doing things. So, you always got to be ready to adapt and adjust and be ready for that real connection.
Alana Muller: So, great. Well, so with that in mind, what advice would you share with someone who wants to grow or cultivate their own professional network?
Carlos Antequera: I think a couple of things maybe that are critical or that are important, be very open, don't be transactional. So many opportunities have found people that are looking to you as a prospective customer solely, or trying to obtain something from you in a very short period of time. And they're not willing to put the energy into building the relationship, getting to know you, getting what matters to you. And as you well know, in giving freely is when you get the most. If you're not willing to be patient a little bit and be willing to do that, sometimes those rewards or things don't come back to you. And so I would say, be patient, again, be aware that this ultimately it's a personal relationship, it's a human connection. And hopefully there's some business opportunities that come from that.
Alana Muller: That's so great. What I'd love to hear actually is about maybe a personal story. I'd like to know about an interaction with maybe one person that resulted in a breakthrough for you, either personally or professionally.
Carlos Antequera: Yeah. There are so many, but one of the other groups that I'm involved with is the Pipeline Fellows, which is a regional group around the Midwest of entrepreneurs. And I think I joined that program in the class of 2008, so, so many years ago. But going through the program, obviously learned many things and got some wisdom around business, but I made many friends through connections there and learning from other folks that were in different industries and being able to borrow tidbits into your own industry when it seems like, "Hey, you're not in software. How can you add value to what I'm doing?" But just by paying attention and listening to things that they do, you might be able to bring some things on board.
But yeah, a personal connection, one of the good friends that I made during that journey, his name is Alfred [inaudible 00:13:23] another entrepreneur in Kansas City. And over time we became good friends in a way that we could help each other out during those tough moments, but that friendship ended up taking me to Ghana, where he's originally from. Over time, we made friends, he was kind enough to invite me. We ended up staying at his brother's house, so really enjoyed the family experience there. And a couple of years later, I repaid the favor and I took him to Bolivia during Carnival, so he had to experience that side of the culture. And so, definitely great friendships, a lot of personal relationships. But in the process, I think there be many ways in which we help each other, giving ourselves advice on the business side and having the backing of that personal relationship, you know this is coming from a good place and you can trust the feedback of that person.
Alana Muller: That's a great story. And I love that you got some international travel out of the deal. That's a great opportunity.
Carlos Antequera: Yeah. I had the chance to dance salsa in [inaudible 00:14:24], which I didn't even know it was possible.
Alana Muller: So cool. So cool. I want to go back, you talked earlier about your prior business, Netchemia. And I know that you were the co-founder and CEO of the company, which provides a talent management platform. And I know that Netchemia serves more than 3,500 school districts across the country and was recognized as a leading technology company in the K12 education space. My understanding is that you successfully sold Netchemia in 2015. Did networking factor into the way that you grew the business in the first place? And what role did it play in the company's ultimate sale?
Carlos Antequera: Definitely right, in so many aspects from getting involved with customers and customers that are able to bring you into their own circles. Netchemia sold its talent management platform to school districts, and the education space in particular, in K12 is very relationship driven, right? There's a lot of trust, superintendents know each other. If they're in a particular city, they're going to know their peers. And if you don't do a good job for one of them, the other ones are going to find out relatively quickly. And so they're a part of many organizations and associations, so networking within those circles was critical. Getting the help of your good customers to help your network was very important to help us grow and scale and spread the word about our good products. So at every stage, I think of the growth of the company, networking was critical, right?
Even including up to the sale of the company, because... one data point that I can give you is the private equity firm that ended up buying Netchemia as they were doing the due diligence, I didn't realize is they knew some people that I knew from the Pipeline Fellowship here in Kansas City, even though they were based in Austin and the other person who was in Canada, right? And so that's how small the world is and connections. So they were able to crosscheck us by connecting to that person, and I didn't know it until later, but that's how powerful networking and connections are.
Alana Muller: That's fabulous. That's fabulous. As we start to wrap up, I just have a couple of fun questions for you I'd love to hear. So one question is if you could meet with one person for a networking interaction, who would it be and why? And I don't care if they're living, not living, fictional, non-fictional. Who would be your dream networking date?
Carlos Antequera: Wow, that's a tough one. I don't know, maybe I would cheat a little bit and I'll pick a couple. I think one on the business side, I think Bill Gates, right? And I'm dating myself, but I grew up in the era of Bill Gates building Microsoft, and I think the staying power that that company has shown even after he's left, his community involvement through his foundation, he's just a person with so many dimensions that if I would like to have the business success, the success with the things that he's doing good for the world, that those would be things that I would love to pick his brain. I don't know how fun it would be outside of that part definitely. Then I think President Obama. I think, again, having a leader of a country that is one of the most powerful countries in the world and having the decisions and the leadership you have to show, it would just be incredible to spend some time with somebody like him and get a little bit of wisdom of his life.
Alana Muller: Well, both fabulous choices. So, I really like those. How about this question: what's currently on your nightstand?
Carlos Antequera: Well, I've moved to Audible lately, right? So...
Alana Muller: So no more books.
Carlos Antequera: Exactly. So my phone is loaded with... I have probably 10 books on queue, but one of the ones that I'm reading, I'm excited about is called... I hope I’m getting the title right. It's “Super Founders,” and it's about characteristics that a particular VC has studied the data around what makes successful founders, what makes successful unicorns in particular and slice sometimes the data into trying to get to those nuggets of what really makes a difference, and what is qualitatively seems like it would be important, but it really statistically does not make a difference. So, that's been very interesting to hear those tidbits because you get caught into these mental models of what's important and not, and getting to the data and the stories behind it has been interesting.
Alana Muller: Great recommendation. I love that. Well, Carlos Antequera, thank you so much for joining us. Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and your company?
Carlos Antequera: Yeah, thank you on that. They can go to novelcapital.com. We'd love to help more founders and entrepreneurs that are building the software companies with capital and any additional help that we can provide. So they can go to our website and, yeah, thanks so much for having me today.
Alana Muller: It was wonderful to visit with you. I look forward to learning more. Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website enterprisebank.com/podcast to subscribe, so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or telling a friend about us. Enterprise.ing, powering business leaders one conversation at a time.
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