Investors hate to say no. They like to hedge their bets and keep their options open. But they will sometimes give you a hard and fast No. Still, that said, things change, so one never knows if it truly is a hard No.
For example, take Avner Ronan, founder of Boxee, a cross-platform freeware media center with social networking features that eventually spun out the Boxee Box. Et al, but more on that later. When he was going for funding, Ronen decided that Fred Wilson would be the perfect investor for Boxee, so he targeted Fred and did get the meeting, but Wilson said No. Undeterred, Ronen continued to send Wilson monthly update on their pivots and progress. The answer continued to come back as No. This went on for 18 months, until there came that one update that changed everything. Finally, Fred said ‘Yes!’
Confirming what we had suspected since childhood: that ‘No’ is an acronym.
Think about it.
When you were a kid and your parents said No, it was always ‘N-O, no!’ Not once did they say, ‘Yes! Y-E-S, Yes!’
We started to suspect that N-O was short for not ordinarily.’ And
considering the Boxee story, well, just goes to show you that we may have been on
to something, yea, even at a tender age – and that entrepreneurs out there
should not necessarily be deterred by an acronym.
Not necessarily. Do remember that there are times that when the investor says No, they do mean ‘No.’
Back to Avner Ronen. As we well know – or hope you realize by now – funding is the beginning, not the end game, and it’s when the work really begins. It’s not unusual for companies to pivot, but Boxee iterated a few times – all well and good – but as Venture Beat (R.I.P. Boxee: 3 lessons to learn from Boxee’s demise) points out, “the biggest mistake Boxee ever made was failing to maintain support for old products… In the tech community, hardware and software sales absolutely depend on goodwill and word of mouth.”
Customer loyalty and customer support are critical to any company trying to rise above the din that is tech. “The one thing you never do is abandon your base. You may try to push your base in a direction,” warns the Venture Beat piece. “You may try to grow a larger base that’s somewhat different than the old base. But you never abandon your base, because in doing so you automatically lose the majority of your current sales/votes/etc. Boxee abandoned their base twice.”
The company was eventually acquired by Samsung.
A Heads Up to the Attention Merchants
With their manipulations and constant changing of rules/terms of service, the Venture Beat caveat, especially in the case of Facebook and Twitter, may well be a lesson that the social media megaliths neglected to heed. In case you missed it, Millennials are starting to hate social media, too. According to the New York Post, a poll “taken in December, found that 34 percent of young users reported having deleted social-media accounts entirely. Forty-one percent of respondents said they waste too much time on social media, and 35 percent agreed that people their age are too distracted by their online lives. The most popular apps to quit permanently are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as the dating app Tinder.”
It seems that the Attention Merchants, in their never-ending quest to suck up as much of our time and data as is humanly – or algorithmically – possible, miscalculated, or failed to factor in system overload or possibly that there is a point where people/customers will allow themselves to be productized. Lest we forget, ‘No’ is also an option available to end users, who are still customers by any other name. Given the overwhelming backlash aimed at the tech cartel of late, to the point where even world wide web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee himself is calling for regulation of big tech companies, is it time for tech to realize that they’re not above the laws of basic business and need to follow that tried and true path of putting the customer first?
That would be Yes.
Onward and forward.