Jesse Moeinifar | Crain's Toronto

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jesse Moeinifar


Based in Toronto, Viafoura helps more than 600 media brands around the world better engage and grow their audience with integrated user registration, moderation and analytics tools. These tools, available individually and through a combined platform, help media companies gain insight and make decisions that maximize return on engagement.  

The Mistake:

People get into entrepreneurship because they want to solve a problem, innovate, and make a difference in the world. The thought of controlling your own destiny is extremely appealing. And the perceived perks are so overwhelming that most people don’t take the time to qualify the other individuals who are willing to join their venture.

In my younger days, I had an experience where I was really excited about an opportunity and the individuals who were willing to join the venture. Their excitement about the venture was on par with mine, so I thought bringing them on was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right thing to do, and the venture wasn’t one of the more successful ones with which I’ve been involved.

Sometimes – because founders or entrepreneurs are so excited about their idea – they do not take into consideration the experience and skills that their potential co-founder or partner is bringing to the table. They are instead fixated on the idea of this person’s excitement or willingness to jump on board, possibly work for free, and get things going.

They might sometimes use that as a reason to assign this person a significant portion of equity in the new venture. “Why not?” they might think. “There’s nothing right now and we’re starting it together, so we should split it 50-50.”

When you actually quantify the skills the other person is bringing to the table and what your idea is potentially worth, however, it forces you to do a lot more due diligence on this person, their experiences and their ability to execute what the company actually needs to get to the next stage.

It’s very easy to give up 50 percent of nothing. But if you think this idea could be worth $50 million in the future, you’ll probably pause to reflect and consider that move.

People are the most important asset – not your idea or technology.

The Lesson:

People are the most important asset – not your idea or technology. The startup that doesn’t have the right people established, prior to the technology needed to support ongoing expectations and demands, ends up consuming a lot of the leadership’s valuable time.

Most entrepreneurs, due to lack of resources, make the mistake of thinking that their idea will prevail. But it’s the execution and the people that drive the outcome. As an example: You can have a state-of-the-art racing catamaran, but unless you have the people or the crew needed to help sail it, your catamaran isn’t going anywhere.

Some of the entrepreneurs I meet every now and again are focused on showing me how cool their tech is, when they should really be talking to me about the highly qualified people they’ve got on board. Ideas, technology and markets change, but it’s the people behind these things that can navigate these changing waters so the company can pivot and live to fight another day.

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Photo courtesy of Viafoura


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