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If you really want to impress a startup founder as a potential employee, or you want to be a smart investor, you need to know the right questions to ask. These are the questions that get past the hype of a founder “vision to change the world,” and into the realm of real business strengths, weaknesses, and current health.
Some founders try to deflect these questions by talking incessantly, so you often need to be calm, patient, and persistent to get the answers. My advice to founders out there is to not volunteer too much, but be open and honest in the face of direct questions like the following: Read more
The problem with this scenario is that you are describing an oxymoron, and wondering why you can’t find a hot ice cube, or a tall hole, or a submarine that can land at ATL. You write:
“Where can I find intelligent and serious investors who aren’t looking for a cash cow, but are willing to use their funds to contribute to an emerging market and make a lot of people happy?” Read more
I just read Social Proof Is the New Currency on the Social Media Today blog. Author Daniel Lay writes:
Whether you like Mark Zuckerberg’s mug or not, the social web is here to stay, and businesses that can integrate social proof into their marketing efforts seamlessly will join this new “socially rich” class. We mean richness in fans and followers, not number of zeroes in your bank account. Social proof is the new currency of credibility.
I don’t agree completely — I think a fat bank account is a really good thing too — but I do think it summarizes an important truth: All startups looking for investment need to deal with what that post is calling social proof. To me, the underlying reality is that startups and their founders are traceable on social media. There are footprints to track, or — far worse — no footprints.
Take it to the pitch moment, say a startup pitching a group of angel investors, which is a scene I see often. Startup founders will be judged by their social media footprint. The startups themselves, as businesses, will be judged by their social media footprints, alias social proof. A founder basing projections on social media marketing will look good if she has thousands of Facebook likes and Twitter followers, bad if she has none or only a few. The social proof, or lack of it, is evidence. Up-to-date investors understand that.
Social proof can’t be manufactured from one day to the next. It takes time to create a credible footprint. It’s one of the first activities to start as you get rolling. Somebody among the founders should have a stream established from a few years back; and the company itself should have a stream that is at least a few months old, with credible updates, and something to show for itself.
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I hear many executives and professionals in large corporations talking about their dream of jumping ship, and starting their own company. What they don’t realize is that the longer they wait, the more big-company habits they are acquiring, which will make their eventual decision harder and entrepreneurial efforts less and less likely to succeed.
Certainly, the longer they wait, the greater the variety of excuses they will find for why now is not the time. Common examples include; need to work on my resume, broaden my experience, enhance my skills, save my income, and maintain a stable family life until my children are gone. Most will then NEVER make the step, and remain unsatisfied through much of their career. Read more
My thoughts on this have changed a bit over time, as the general pace of—and level of activity in—the startup world has begun to hyper-accelerate. It’s always a good idea to be able to approach someone with whom you’ve had at least a nodding relationship, because that immediately differentiates you from a pure, over-the-transom funding request, and you are much more likely to at least get an answer. Read more
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I’m not much of a television person, but my family loves one of the popular “reality” shows, called “So You Think You Can Dance,” so I’m sort of forced to watch it every week. Over time, I’ve concluded that even startup entrepreneurs can learn a few things from this one. Of course, you must ignore the pomp and circumstance of the TV staging.
I’m on the selection committee of our local Angels group, so I know that every CEO approaching our group for funding goes through ten minutes of creative “dancing,” to give us a basis for selecting startups that are most qualified and “ready” to proceed to the next level. If selected, they go through it again in the real meeting of 40-60 investors. It’s tough and not fun for either side. Read more
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If you expect to succeed in the thrill-a-minute, roller coaster ride of a startup, let me assure you it takes more than a good idea, a rich uncle, and luck. In fact, the idea is often the least important part of the equation. Most investors tell me that they look at the people first, the business plan second, and only then at the idea.
If you want some tips to beat the insurmountable odds, take a look at the following concepts, adapted from Richard C. Levy’s book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cashing in On Your Inventions.” He was talking about inventions, but I think his concepts apply perfectly to any entrepreneur starting a business: Read more