Fred Schaufeld, managing director at SWaN & Legend Venture Partners, is a man on the move. He is kept busy by diversified investments in companies such as the Washington Wizards, KIND, Social Radar, and Asurion, so he relies on his custom-built Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van (upfitted by Becker Automotive Design) to stay productive and stress-free while on the go.
How do you decide which businesses to invest in?
We aim for high returns in venture and growth-stage companies. Most important, we look for great people to partner with. We look for geniuses—extraordinary founders and CEOs. Secondarily, we look for great ideas. We often end up spending a lot of time with our portfolio investees, so we look for people we believe we can learn from and with—and whom we want to hang with.
Besides providing capital, what else do you do with the companies you back?
We often take board or observer seats. We help them with building out their management teams, strategic planning, major customer acquisition, and financing. We bring experience.
How often do you travel for business?
All the time.
How do you use your Sprinter for business while traveling?
My office is 45 minutes from downtown D.C. without traffic. In traffic, it can be twice that or more. A number of our portfolio companies are located there, and we have an incubator nearby. The JetVan is so roomy and comfortable that I don’t mind spending the extra time in it. Now I’m usually on time, which used to be a real challenge for me. The Sprinter is my full office on the road. It’s also where I can get a nap between meetings.
I also use it to shuttle family, friends, and business associates around. Let’s face it, it’s a rolling party.
What kind of customizations did you choose to upfit your Sprinter?
It’s called a JetVan because the interior really looks like a private jet… except nicer. This bad boy is really tricked out! I’ve got reclining, massaging seats with footrests; TV screens in all directions—including a big screen with a camera for video conferencing and an awesome sound system; beautiful wood tables; custom wool carpeting; Wi-Fi, Apple TV, a Mac computer, a printer, and every other tech device known to a modern office (except my treadmill desk); and a refrigerator and a pretty full bar for after hours.
What is your favorite feature of your Sprinter?
The massaging sleeper seats.
How has your Sprinter changed the way you work?
It has allowed a farm boy to stay connected in the city. It has made me almost oblivious to traffic.
As an experienced entrepreneur, what advice would you give to up-and-coming entrepreneurs?
One: If you generally love what you do on a daily basis, it’s not work. If you hate what you do, you’ll never get the time back, and all the money in the world won’t get you back to even. The most successful entrepreneurs I know love going to work.
Two: Ego is like fire. It’s insidious. It can heat the room or burn down the house. Harness your ego for motivation, but if you start making your business decisions based on your ego or the egos of others, you’re going to ruin your business. Find trusted advisors who will help you wring ego out of your important decision-making processes. Then, use your (monetary) success to go feed your ego … but make sure part of that ego-feeding comes from doing good for others.
Three: Don’t believe your own positive press, and don’t read too much negative press about yourself either.
Fred Schaufeld is Managing Director at SWaN & Legend Venture Partners.