“Investors Just Don’t Get Me”, Or a Lesson in Failing Efficiently.
I was on a call today with a few entrepreneurs. The gist of the brilliant innovators is “I can solve the worlds’ problems and make everyone rich, if I could just find someone with money smart enough to see how smart I am.”
The assumption that you are the smartest person in the world because you came up with an idea while people with money are not smart is a common one.
Here’s a reality check question. Who were you before you came up with your idea? Were you the smartest person in the room? The most accomplished? If not, it’s pretty safe to say that your great idea hasn’t changed you. You are the same person you were before, just now with a lot more ego (because “you had an idea”) and a lot more to lose because you spent a year or two and probably a lot of money developing the idea and convincing yourself and everyone around you that this idea will save the world.
Problem is that you’ve only convinced one person, yourself. And you have to convince yourself, because if you’re wrong, you’re not only not the smartest person in the room, you might be the dumbest. And that is scary.
But, let’s say that you do have a pretty good idea. An idea that someone with ability to sell (let’s face it, selling yourself is not an ability) could actually get somewhere with it. Well then you have to face one of two realities: you either keep going the way you do and fail slowly (given how you’re going it is safe to say that no investor will “get you” and you will fail), or have a chance to succeed or at worst fail fast. How do you do that? You get help. By hook or by crook, paying or begging, you find a partner who can market and sell your idea. Because as my friend says: an idea is jut an idea until you sell it, then it is a business and you can sell it without marketing it. So you better start marketing and selling.
Why should you get someone else? Can’t you just spend some time and do the marketing and selling yourself? It worked for Jobs and Musk. Well, because you’re not Job or Musk. If you were like them, you wouldn’t be complaining about lack of people who “get you”. So just as you can learn to fix a car on YouTube but doesn’t mean that you can make money at it by learning from YouTube, similarly you will not learn to market something professionally on YouTube. You will not learn it from blog posts or from marketing events and meet ups. Marketing is a hard job done by people who have education and training. You have to accept that it is not your strength and do what you do well: invent and let people who sell and market, sell and market your idea.
Secondly, here’s a reminder, VC’s, investors, customers care about one thing: their main thing. VC’s care about the return to their fund, not saving the world. Investors care about return on their investment, not saving the world. Customers care about the benefit and not the headache of installing and dealing with your product. As Dale Carnegie put it: “You may love a penut butter sandwich and hate worms, but if you want to catch a fish, you will have to give it what it wants, not what you want.” So stop blaming VC’s and customers for not getting why you love your product, show them why they should love it because it provides profit for them in the way they seek profit. This means a scaling business for VC, a profitable business for investor and a product that provides benefit without risk for the customer.
In finale: first and foremost stop assuming you’re smarter than others, you probably are not. Be humble enough to get help. Sell what’s important to your investor and customer, not to you. And lastly, be realistic enough to quit if you realize that your idea isn’t profitable enough or isn’t useful enough to anyone but you.
If you do that, you may succeed, or at least learn to fail efficiently.