Over the past eight years, Don McKee has become a leading member of the Queen City Angels. He has been instrumental in arranging and then raising the initial and follow-on financings for six companies and currently serves as a lead board member for four companies. In 2013, after nomination by one of his portfolio companies, Don won the E&Y Outstanding Private Company Director of the Year Award.
Recently, The Halo Effect took the opportunity to conduct a brief Q&A session with Don.
1. What is your professional background, and how did it prepare you for your role in QCA?
My 30 years of experience helping to build successful corporations in several different industries prepared me well for the roles I play at QCA. I had responsibility for finance and business strategy for most of the 30 years, the last 15 as CFO. Early in my career, at Richardson Vicks, subsequently acquired by Procter & Gamble, I spent 8 years as a sounding board and advisor to CEOs and CFOs of foreign subsidiaries in strategy, finance, marketing and sales. I also developed financial and strategic planning systems and analyzed the strategic and operational plans of each subsidiary. This role was very similar to my current role as board member and advisor to QCA companies. At Richardson Vicks and subsequently as treasurer and CFO of larger companies, I raised debt and equity capital for numerous entities.
2. Why did you join QCA?
I love to work with smart, passionate CEOs to build fast growing and profitable companies.
3. What is one piece of advice you were given early in your career that continues to serve you well today?
Always set and maintain the highest standards of performance for yourself and your organizations. Since no one person has all of the best answers, seek to work with people who are open to a collaborative working environment. Avoid people who believe they have all of the answers and are not open to ideas of others.
4. What are one or two common themes you run across when working with entrepreneurs?
To successfully build a company, it always takes twice as long as projected and costs twice as much money.
5. What business, political, or social issues do you think will have an impact on the business climate in our region? Why?
I believe the immense and growing debt level of our country is likely to be a significant drag on future generations when interest rates rise and the level of debt keeps growing. High and increasing debt service requirements will result in higher interest rates, taxes and less money available for all other sectors of our national budget.
6. What company do you suggest entrepreneurs watch as a good example of success?
AssureRx and Ecolibrium Solar are two companies that come to mind as good examples of success. Several other companies that I am working with are likely to become additional examples.
7. What is something about QCA that the public may not know about or understand?
While we compete as a source of capital for young companies, our key strength and differentiation is the intellectual capital that we share with the companies in which we invest. Members of QCA have broad and deep backgrounds in most areas of business.
8. What do you consider as Cincinnati’s strengths and weaknesses for starting a business?
In the last 10 years Cincinnati has burgeoned into a very attractive place to start a business. The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem has expanded and grown to meet the needs of entrepreneurs. . Cintrifuse can now help direct entrepreneurs to the resources they need. The Hamilton County Development Center continues to be an invaluable resource to young companies. New accelerators and programs including Bad Girl Ventures, The Brandery, Mortar, Ocean, and Uptech are very positive assets for young entrepreneurs. Furthermore, QCA and CincyTech have recently raised significantly more money to support seed and seed plus rounds, and are sharing investment opportunities with other angel groups.
Despite these positive developments, raising follow on rounds of $2-3 million remains a challenge for young companies. Venture capitalists are now focusing on later stage companies and the demand for this level of funding outweighs the supply. As a result, realistic company valuations, syndication of deals with other angel groups, and achieving cash flow breakeven sooner all are more critical today.