Tag Archives: Entrepreneur

Beware the Generalizations

This week I got the rare opportunity to have a low key dinner with the founders working at the NewME Accelerator in San Francisco.  It was a great visit—the energy and sophistication of the teams there was really strong, and I enjoyed the time.

This talk was strictly Q&A—just me sitting with a group of around 15 founders, fielding questions one after another.  I love this format.  But if you’ve spent time with me, you’ll know once I get started I don’t really stop talking, so this may not be all that unique.  :)

The founders’ questions were many.  Some were specific and use case oriented, such as, “Our team has built a product, we’re getting traction, and we think we need to raise a small seed round.  Some are suggesting we raise more, what do you think?”  In your case, given the instincts that’ve gotten you this far, I reco following them going forward.  If you have an offer to raise more, then think about that then.

Or, “I’m a founder with unique and differentiated real world experience in a specific market, and I want to hire a tech team to build a product this industry needs.  How do I raise money to hire them or how to do I hire them before I have money?”  Catch 22 — not sure what to say, just have to figure out a solution.

Others were pretty hypothetical, “If you had one company with 2 million users and no revenue, and another company with a small number of users and $50,000 in revenue, which would you be more likely to invest in?”  Hm.  Totally depends on trajectory and relative opportunities of the two.

In answering the questions, I often had to reiterate a caveat I find myself making a lot these days.  Namely, when I’m answering a question on a business I know only lightly, as in when I show up at a Q&A with founders, my answers are going to be broad brushstroke generalizations.  These generalizations may not work for you in your particular situation.  Mileage can vary, a lot.  The core truth is that your on the ground reality may be the sort of thing where my advice, or the advice of other outside perspectives, is pretty useless or even harmful.

In my own experience, in building startups the core on the ground reality is pretty muddy and opaque.  This is a constant reality—startups are inherently dealing in uncertainties, and uncertainty creates ambiguity.  Uncertainty and ambiguity is more the norm than the exception.

At the same time, many in our community, investor types like me and other outsiders, present a worldview that is much more certain.  Company 1 is screwed, Company 2 is can’t miss.  Do A, do not do B.   The world is black; not white.  Approach y worked for company x, so you should think about doing y too.  In an uncertain world, the narrative of certainty is valued.

I disagree with this thinking.  Far more is unknown than known, especially by those of us far removed from the front lines of our business.  I encourage founders to hear out different opinions, but retain your own perspective, informed by the reality of your situation.

In most cases, the situations we’re dealing with aren’t black and white.  They’re gray.  Beware of people who make you think the answers are simple and that generalities work.

If the answers were simple, anyone could do this stuff.

 

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Welcome!

Thanks for visiting my blog.  I’ve had this here for a while, but as there was a recent surge of visitors, over 90% of whom have never visited before, I thought I’d try to roll out a bit more of a welcome and introduction in this post. :)

First off, its nice to meet you.  To learn more  about me, go to the About Me page.  Definitely feel free to drop me a line at jjamison <at> brv <dot> com.  I do my best to respond quickly, but I may be brief.

Second, here are some quick links to stuff I write about here and elsewhere.

  • StartupProTips.  This is a collection of quick tips and tricks that I try to pass on to founders, generally in the context of either building a company or fund-raising.  These have been relatively popular.
  • Naming & branding your startup. (Slide deck.)  I’ve given this talk at Adeo Ressi’s FounderInstitute several times, and I think it generally provides a useful, concrete approach to thinking about coming up with a name and brand.
  • SlideShare decks galore!  Some of the greatest hits talk about building your revenue model, hiring, and a general overview of lessons learned in Silicon Valley.  Worth what you pay for them, but quick and hopefully painless to read.

So again, welcome.  Happy to have you here.  Please let me know if there’s content you’d like to see more or less of.

 

 

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StartupProTip: re-read Venture Hacks!

Venture Hacks is a great resource for early stage founders.  If you’ve never read Venture Hacks or if its been a while, I’d recommend rereading.

Today, I was trading mail with a founder looking to get in for a pitch.   I generally try to keep my door as open as I possibly can, to meet as many founders as possible, as you just never know.  At the same time, this founder’s approach really hurt his or her credibility with investor.

I’m pasting the thread below, not to humiliate the person in question, but rather to illustrate the points that are so important from the Venture Hacks recommendations on how to approach an investor.

StartupProTip of the day: read or re-read Venture Hacks!

Mail #1

———————–

Subject: Important Email

Hello Jay,

Hope your day is going great, I found your contacts through linkedin and

wanted to drop you quick email

Our team is working on some of the biggest, baddest, innovation & game

changing technologies which are going to have global impact and we are

looking for advisors/mentors & board members for this project

Do you have few minutes to jump on quick call to go over beta version of our

platform ? rest assured, this will be well worth your time

best,

[Founder name ommitted]

 ——-
Mail #2

To: Jay Jamison

Subject: Important Email,

 

 

Hi Jay,  wondering if you received my previous email, I look forward to

hearing from you at the earliest

 

best,

– [founder name omitted]

—-

Mail #3 — my response #1

Can you give me any context on what this is about?  It is very difficult to

parse.

 

Thanks!

 

Best regards,

 

Jay

 

Jay Jamison

BlueRun Ventures

 

 —-
Mail #4 — founder response

good to hear from you Jay,.technology is related to

mobile, social media, bigdata advertising platform

for business owners. let me know if you have few

minutes to jump on quick call. I’ll connect you with

our super star founders for a demo early next week.

 

mail #5 — my final mail

Hi  {name omitted},

 

Thanks for the mail.  I am going to pass on this opportunity.

 

In the spirit of trying to help you and your team, I would strongly recommend that you and the founding team read these posts in particular: http://venturehacks.com/articles/elevator-pitch and http://venturehacks.com/pitching.  If you are serious about building a company, then I’d also strongly recommend seeking admission to Adeo Ressi‘s FounderInstitute.

 

Your current approach raises a range of red flags, and you would benefit greatly from following the advice described in these articles and / or the opportunities offered through the FounderInstitute.

 

 

 

Thanks!

 

Best regards,

 

Jay

 

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