Alexander Guizzetti is the president of 9d Ventures, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based venture capital and private equity company founded in 2020. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in business management, real estate and urban economics, Guizzetti is an entrepreneur, investor, and innovator. He also holds a certificate from the University of Wisconsin in entrepreneurship and is a licensed real estate agent in Arizona.
How did you get started in this business?
I started my first legitimate business, RedEx Media, in the last few weeks of college. Fast forward almost 10 years, I still serve as the President of that company and have been fortunate enough to have success where I can parlay that into other ventures and outside investments. Entrepreneurship has always been a passion of mine. Now, I want to help fellow entrepreneurs with a vision to change the world and help propel them to success.
How do you make money?
At 9d Ventures, we invest seed capital into early stage startups in exchange for an equity stake or a convertible note. We are industry agnostic but we look for ideas that focus on solving problems in underserved markets.
I like to research ideas and solutions thoroughly, seeing what’s already on the market and, if it’s not, why it’s not. In some cases, I find that there already is a well thought out solution that’s innovative and effective. Where I don’t is where I look to invest assets – money and expertise.
I really enjoy working with companies that have a solid vision but also the ability to make pivots as the market dictates. The ability to adapt quickly and pivot to create solutions – whether products, services or both – is a major advantage startups have over larger, more established companies.
We work with small startups that are ready to be disruptors, solving problems and changing the way well-established industries operate. We particularly seek out early-stage startups with well thought out pitch decks that are seeking seed round funding or Series A raises.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
We’re in the game for the long haul. That means we are looking for long-term investments with companies that offer the best chance for success, both for the founders and our investment team.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Absolutely. Whenever I’m starting something new, especially when I’m passionate about the project or idea, I have so much energy and focus that it consumes almost all of my thinking and therefore it makes it difficult to stay patient until things materialize. You have to understand that nothing happens overnight.
We launched 9d Ventures during a pandemic and an economic downturn. It has been a challenging time for everyone. People are worried about their health and their finances but the pandemic has also allowed us to stretch ourselves in other creative ways. I certainly wondered if this is the right time to be starting a new business, but here’s what I saw – COVID-19 forced people and businesses to be more adaptive and resourceful than ever. We all found new ways to connect, to deliver services and goods, to stay safe and to remain healthy. While some industries were decimated, others flourished.
I’ve also stayed focused on my own wellness, which is very important to me. I find exercise to be an essential part of a healthy work-life balance. It also keeps me productive, both at work and at home. The things I choose to do outside of work help improve my productivity and focus at work. During this crazy time, committing to that balance has been essential.
How did you get your first customer?
Our first customer was acquired by sliding in their DM’s on Twitter. Part of what I try to do is connect with our customers on a personal level. I’ve been an entrepreneur. I know what that roller coaster ride is like, the highs and lows that come from starting your own company.
By connecting with customers on a very real, practical level, I think we resonate with both investors and with clients. We know that success is going to come with having a great idea and being open to ideation, excellence and persistence.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
The best marketing strategy I find is authenticity and transparency. Be real with the people you’re marketing to.
At every successful company I’ve worked for or know, they put the people using their products first. They listen to their customers and learn from them. That means asking how people are using your products or services. Often, you learn that they’re being used in ways you never considered.
That’s what I mean by agility – use new information gathered through end users to change the way that product or service is marketed to others. Think about what new markets, sectors or industries could now be in play because you have discovered a new way to use what you’ve created.
You need to think about your customers as partners with skin in the game. When they see that you’re responsive to your product or service, they buy into it more. If you can then show them that you’re willing to adapt the product to suit their needs, even better. Be responsive. Hold user groups and conferences. Support their work and be open to new ideas.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Hiring decisions are always difficult for me. Right now, there are so many talented individuals out there looking for work, it’s hard to deliver the news that you’re not going to move forward with them and then you can’t help but wonder sometimes whether you made the right decision.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I think there are two answers to that question. The first is that I’ve figured out a routine that works for me and is sustainable. My days are structured to make sure I stay on task with the most important, mission-critical work. But as mentioned before, some of your time has to me non-work time, even if it’s in the middle of the day. For me, that’s exercise and coming home and playing with my dog. It’s a myth to think that personal time is not productive. It lets you recharge and refocus to then be more productive when you are actively working.
The other thing that drives my success is how we vet ideas. Ideas are at the heart of what we do.
I love new ideas. When one comes to mind, either for myself, a colleague or a client, we start by taking notes and asking questions. First, we don’t want to lose those ideas, however small they may seem, because later those small ideas can become big ones. Ideas are transformational.
It’s true that some ideas die quickly and that’s OK. It’s part of the creative, iterative process. It’s good to know when an idea needs to die and be OK with the time spent on those things.
For the big ideas, the ones that seem to have some traction, it’s time to test them out. I want to revisit those ideas. I want to think about the challenges, risks and issues with those ideas. And I don’t do it alone. This is one of the most critical areas for my team and where I appreciate their perspectives and ideas the most. I like for us to throw an idea around, push it, poke it and throw it against a wall. I like to identify in a checklist what it will take to make an idea work.
This process of knocking around ideas is what makes us successful.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Setting milestones, meeting those milestones, then setting new ones. You need to take the time to appreciate the work put in and how you got there. Once you’re there, set new goals to continue your growth. I remember setting some monthly revenue goals for one of my first businesses and thinking, “If only we could get to $20,000 per month, I can make this work.” Now we do a multiple of that revenue on a daily basis.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
We’re just getting started and I think that means the future is all ahead of us. It’s understanding the potential of where we can go from here that is so exciting to me.
What business books have inspired you?
‘The Obstacle is the Way’ by Ryan Holiday has great lessons for entrepreneurs at every level and helps you look at obstacles as opportunities. It shows how truly resilient people are generally the most successful.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Trust your instincts. Self-doubt is a brutal feeling. If your gut is telling you to do something, don’t be afraid to follow that hunch. You’re going to have more regret in the things you didn’t try than those that you did but didn’t work out.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, what would you say to help someone who is looking for advice in your field?
Of course! People helped me get to where I am and I want to pay it forward. I think the best advice I can give is to constantly invest in yourself.