Advice to Founders with Short Memories: The Heads Up Edition

Advice to Founders with Short Memories: The Heads Up Edition

As every investor knows, founders tend to exaggerate. We suppose that falls under the ‘marketing’ rubric, at least in the minds of founders which, truth be told, can be a dangerous and scary place, so every now and then, we like to send out a reminder of subtleties you might have missed, which may help to explain why you’re not getting the results you had hoped for. In no particular order:


  1. If you’ve met someone with whom you may want to follow up by way of email – especially a potential investor – make it apparent in the subject line. For example: I enjoyed meeting you at NAME EVENT HERE, and am following up, as promised/discussed. Be specific. The subject line should not be YOUR NAME HERE/COMPANY NAME HERE. If it looks like a cold email, the recipient will assume it’s a cold email and swipe left.


  1. Make sure that he/she asked you to follow up, or that you had mentioned it and he/she had agreed. Otherwise, it’s a waste of everyone’s time.


  1. Always give a point of reference. Just in case we’ve been too subtle in Point #1 .


  1. Many pitch/panel events host 100-400 attendees, and you happened to be one of 50 people who went to speak to one of the speakers/investors afterwards. And took his/her business card. Remember: that investor no doubt gave his/her card to the other 49 people on that line as well. A 30-second conversation on a line that’s snaking around the corner does not qualify as a ‘warm’ introduction. Will that speaker remember you in the morning? Chances are, he/she has forgotten you as soon as he/she moved on to the next person. Follow up, but don’t assume that you’re besties. Some things just don’t happen in internet time.


  1. If there’s an investor/advisor/industry expert you’d like to contact, go through LinkedIn to see if you have any mutual connections. Don’t simply mention your mutual connection, should you have that person’s contact information. Ask your connection for a warm introduction. After all, you don’t know how well they know each other, or if they had met en passant – or even if they still like or trust each other. Check first. And you might want to ask your mutual connection to reference your meeting as well, however brief it might have been.


  1. Finding your first investors isn’t the be all and end all. Think advisors/mentors. You might want to build out an advisory board of industry experts, subject matter experts, and connectors who can help make introductions to the people – including clients, corporates and investors – whom you might need. When you’re ready. Contrary to popular misconception (one held by many founders), you don’t know everything or everyone you need to know and you can’t do it all yourself.


  1. Compensate your advisors. The phrase can I take you out for coffee and pick your brain really needs to be banished from the startup lexicon. Try can we meet up to see if we might be able to work together and discuss how we might be able to compensate you?


  1. How do you find mentors/advisors if you don’t happen to live in a tech hub, or even if you do, and reaching out cold on LinkedIn is not getting you the results you had hoped for? Shapr. Think Tinder for business connections and advice. A friend told us about it. Playing it forward.


  1. CB Insights just came out with The Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail and Failure to Use Network made the list. But do make sure to read the entire list.


  1. Choose your investors wisely and get to know them before you sign on the dotted line. How often have you heard that getting into bed with an investor is like a marriage. Wrong. In a marriage, if the relationship goes south, divorce is always an option. When it comes to investors, sorry, but there is no divorce. You’re stuck with these people through the life of your company, for better or for worse. Seriously.


And the final point, which is far too important to be relegated to another number on the list: Getting funded is a validation point, not the end game. As someone said to us recently, congratulating a founder on having been funded is like congratulation a chef for having purchased ingredients.

Onward and forward.

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