November 21, 2023
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Kauffman Fellows Remembers Brian Dovey

Brian Dovey (1941 - 2023) was a revered figure deeply involved in the Kauffman Fellows Program, serving as a Board Member and Chairman. He played a pivotal role in our organization’s success through his leadership and unwavering support. He was known for his mentorship, encouraging individuals to focus on their strengths and build from there. 

After speaking with Brian’s family after his passing, they confirmed what we already knew — that Brian was incredibly proud of his association with the Kauffman Fellows program and believed deeply in its mission. 

Brian's legacy reflects his embrace of entrepreneurship, culminating in a book titled "The Idea Is the Easy Part," a practical guide he lovingly crafted into a personal and humor-infused compendium of advice for those embarking on the challenging entrepreneurial journey. 

Between serving as the president of the company that developed the groundbreaking EpiPen, bringing entrepreneurship to a Fortune 500 company as president, working in venture capital for several decades, and being involved in the development of nearly three hundred startups, Brian became well acquainted with entrepreneurship—its reality as well as its mythology. In “The Idea Is the Easy Part,” he busts common myths about entrepreneurship and lays out an enthusiastic but realistic guidebook for aspiring entrepreneurs to make better decisions at every stage of the entrepreneurial process.

Over the years, Brian’s impact on the Kauffman Fellows program and the entrepreneurial community remains profound and cherished by those who had the privilege of knowing him. Below we share select excerpts from "The Idea Is the Easy Part." We also share memories and tributes from the Kauffman Fellows leadership team, past and present. 

Our Favorite Excerpts from Brian’s Book

Chapter 4, Shark Tank is Fiction: Brian debunked the notion, as often portrayed in TV and movies, that VCs invest in a company after hearing a couple minutes of an elevator pitch from a charismatic founder. He believed the best VCs draw on both sides of their brains and see investing as both a science and an art. 

“VCs actually make funding decisions based on a complex web of factors. Some are quantifiable metrics about market demand, competition, potential growth, proprietary position, and so on. Others are less tangible impressions of a startup’s management team, narrative, internal chemistry, and feel for the customer. Not everything important can be easily measured. Good VCs draw on both sides of their brains, studying every fact and figure they can get their hands on while also honing their gut instincts. They see investing as both a science and an art.”

Chapter 6, The Dangers of Perfectionism: Brian challenged the conventional notion that everything must be executed at the pinnacle of perfection from the outset. He believed that perfectionism unfolds as a formidable adversary to effective execution. 

“Another big obstacle to good execution is perfectionism. Many founders tie themselves in knots because they want everything done as well as humanly possible. But I’ve found that the old saying is true: the perfect is the enemy of the good. So is a less famous saying that I got from one of my early bosses: anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. It’s important to demonstrate that an opportunity is realistic early on; once you know that you can make it work at all, you can wait until later to make it work more efficiently.”

Final Thoughts Chapter: Brian embraced the complexity of the venture capital world and ultimately found joy in the absence of a singular path to success while reinforcing the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all formula. 

“I decided to seek out advice from the most experienced and respected VCs who would be willing to let me buy them lunch. As I tried to process all of this conflicting advice, it struck me that their very different approaches to venture capital were based on their unique perspectives, talents, and experiences. It was like the fable of the blind men and the elephant, each describing a different aspect of something too big to get their hands around completely. Yet they were all massively successful! I had to conclude that there’s no single right way to invest in startups or to run them. To me, at least, that made the whole game more fun. After all, if you could succeed as a VC or an entrepreneur just by following the steps in some cookbook, anyone could do it, and the rewards would plummet.” 

Excerpted from The Idea is the Easy Part, copyright © 2023 by Brian Dovey. Reprinted with permission from Matt Holt Books, an imprint of BenBella Books, Inc. All rights reserved.

Memories & Tributes from Kauffman Fellows Leadership

"Brian was a stalwart supporter of the Kauffman Fellows Program. He served on the board and then as Chairman for many years. Most importantly, he was a kind, thoughtful, and generous human being. Our organization is thriving today due to his leadership and service. He is deeply missed and appreciated."

- Jason Green, KF Founding Chairman

“Brian took over as Chairman soon after I started as CEO in 2008, at a time when the global financial world was on the verge of collapse. I didn’t really know him at the time, but he showed up ready to take on the challenge like the athlete that he was. I’d give him an idea, and he'd question it, question it, question it, help me shape and polish the idea, and then have me believing it was the best strategy in the world.

I remember he gave a talk and got the inevitable "one piece of career advice" question at the end from one of the Fellows. He told the class, "Yeah, sure…why are you so tough on yourselves? I could never get into this program. Focus on your amazing strengths and build from there." That was Brian. Always looking to understand what made the best versions of all of us Fellows and give us the confidence and energy to get there.

Anyone who is grateful for what the Kauffman Fellows Program gave them has Brian to thank, so please join me in honoring him."

- Phil Wickham, Former KF CEO & Board Member