Brad D. Smith Keynotes The Virtual 3 Steps to StartUp Venture Fair

On March 9-10, 2021, the virtual 3 Steps to StartUp Venture Fair featured experienced investors, innovators and entrepreneurs who offered advice on starting a business and attracting investors.

Brad D. Smith was the keynote speaker for the first day of the event and spoke about starting and managing a company. Michael Graney moderated the discussion by leading Brad through a series of questions surrounding entrepreneurship in West Virginia. At the end of the chat, Brad answered some questions offered by the audience.

In West Virginia, Brad and his wife, Alys, have worked together to drive educational and entrepreneurship opportunities for everyone in the area. Brad talked about their efforts through the Wing 2 Wing Foundation, which has provided funding for multiple program advancements at West Virginia University and Marshall University, Brad’s alma mater.

Coming out of the pandemic, Brad sees the Mountain State as poised to take off and become a great hub for businesses and innovation. Through the advancement of educational programs—which encourage experiential learning and design-thinking from elementary school through the university level—West Virginia has a system in place to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Brad also discussed how West Virginia is proactively capitalizing on recent trends in remote work. According to Upwork, and cited by Brad during his discussion, 37% of people can now live and work from wherever they want. Workers are escaping larger cities and moving to rural areas with natural beauty, which is exactly what the Appalachian area has to offer. Through the remote worker program at West Virginia University, which was funded by Brad and Alys’ Wing 2 Wing Foundation, West Virginia is offering opportunities and resources to draw entrepreneurs into the state, bringing together current and future generations of innovators.

As for advice to entrepreneurs, Brad shared insight on trends he has seen in the Silicon Valley and spoke about what he has learned from his own experiences. One important point was a focus on design-thinking and prioritizing a solution to a problem over a specific product. He offered a piece of advice along with that, which goes against traditional business teachings—leave your business plan to last. Brad suggested focusing on running experiments and proving your solution can solve a problem better than what’s on the market, then focus on how you will make money. This is based on the idea that investors are investing in people and market values instead of business plans, a current trend Brad identified in the industry.

Brad urged the audience to be cautious of their biggest risk, which is thinking “why would I think this is possible.” He encouraged entrepreneurs and innovators to instead ask themselves, “why wouldn’t I be able to achieve this?”