Mike Green, chairman of the West Virginia Growth Investment Fund and managing director of Mountain State Capital, talked with Jim Matuga, host of The Positively West Virginia Podcast, about the connection between education and the business community, the importance of entrepreneurship and his advice to entrepreneurs.
Green, a numerical science graduate from Johns Hopkins University, provides mentorship and funding to entrepreneurs and early stage companies. Green began his career in 1969 as a mathematician, cryptanalyst and software developer at the Nation Security Agency, moved to the private sector in 1979 and in 2009 began serving as the board president for the West Virginia Board of Education.
Tell us about your two organizations.
“When I came back to West Virginia, I noticed that there was a deficiency in the amount of people who understood the entrepreneurship world in early stage investing and so on,” Green said. “So, I started to focus on looking for people who had great ideas and needed adult supervision and advice/mentorship. Ultimately, it leads to people to need funding.”
“ I did that for a number of years. In 2010, I started to work with other people and we started to put little groups called angel groups, people who have the ability to put some money together and find entrepreneurs and fund them.”
“In 2013, we decided to formalize this and create an angel fund, a group of investors who got together and pulled their money, and to provide mentorship to entrepreneurs in early stage companies.”
“A couple of years ago, we decided to go to the next phase and made Mountain State Capital, which is a traditional venture capital company.”
What kind of companies are you looking to fund?
“We look at a board view of this and see a lot of companies in many many industries,” Green said. “Today, in the technology space it’s very difficult to find a new thing, but every once in a while you see something that pops up that is exciting especially in the area of entrepreneurship in the area of artificial intelligence and robotics.”
“Our goal is to find those gems that are out there, that need that kind of advice and money and are not afraid to make mistakes.”
“There are a tons of things going on in the energy space that we are involved in. Medical devices are being developed every single day. Medical diagnostics systems are out there. Healthcare community has got a lot of ideas and there are certainly a lot of things that need to be done to improve healthcare in this state.”
“Every day, it’s amazing how we find that people have got incredibly new ideas and are needing that mentorship.”
How is education in the state of West Virginia connected to the business community?
“I am a big proponent of having great education in our state,” Green said. “It’s fair to say that the education in our state can be improved, but we are not a whole lot different than what is going on across the nation.”
“I strongly believe that the focus going forward has to be on looking at our kids and saying to yourself ‘what do we have to provide them from the education community that is going to prepare them for the jobs and careers of the future.’ I think a lot of work needs to be put into that.”
“I am a strong proponent of teaching our kids STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics because I think it gives the kids a basis for their education going forward. I am also a strong proponent of some things that we did when I was on the state school board in advocating in a career in technical education programs.”
What is one piece of advice you would give on mentorship?
“I think that one of the elements of being a good entrepreneur is having the guts to be able to ask anybody anything at any time and not being afraid expect the fact that somebody will say ‘I can’t help you,’” Green said. “Keep going and try to find somebody.”
“There are very few people who can provide good guidance, and we need to find more of that. I strongly believe they are embedded in our business community, which is why I am a strong advocate for our business leaders to make themselves available.”
Green was a guest of The Positively West Virginia Podcast. Listen to his full podcast here.
PWV QUICK BITS
- RECOMMENDED BOOK: The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki
- RECOMMENDED THING TO DO: Use the concept of pausing and thinking things through
- PIECE OF ADVICE: “I think that one of the elements of being a good entrepreneur is having the guts to be able to ask anybody anything at any time and not being afraid expect the fact that somebody will say ‘I can’t help you,’” Green said. “Keep going and try to find somebody.”