What’s the #1 Criteria for Success in the Startup World?

What’s the #1 Criteria for Success in the Startup World?

When he spoke at our  investor breakfast a couple of months back, New York Angels chairman Brian Cohen said that Bill Gross, founder of idealab, a startup studio and arguably the prototype for tech accelerators, asked what was the one criteria that mattered most in a successful exit of a company. Was it the amount of money they raised? Or was it smart leaders that mattered. After all the research that he had done at idealabs, Gross concluded that it was timing that was the #1 criteria for success. Timing, meaning when you went to market – think Six Degrees, the first social network in the Web 1.0 days, v Facebook.

It’s all about timing.

“And luck,” said Cohen. “I believe in meeting luck half way.”

He also mentioned that he wanted luck to be there when he was available.

“There’s a great Ted Talk available,” he said, and the speaker – a woman whose name we were unable to capture – talked about genius.

“Back in the old times, in the Middle Ages, there was a spirit called genius,” Brian shared from her talk. “The spirit of genius would surround you. You didn’t know when genius was going to happen. Genius may not touch you. She tells a story where she’s driving in her car in terrible traffic in LA and she had a moment of genius. Genius when through her head. She started screaming, ‘Why are you here now??? I have no paper to write this down!!!’ It’s all timing,” said Cohen. “Make sure you get everything you can from everybody you meet. And don’t waste time.”

We mention this because December is the time of the holiday parties. Everyone is out there enjoying the season, and are maybe even a bit more relaxed and seemingly more approachable than usual (not that we necessarily believe this: people are always approachable, depending on your approach).

A few points to keep in mind:

  1. Be friendly
  2. Talk to the person you’re approaching, be that person a potential investor, mentor, advisor or strategic, as a person. Do not open with your pitch or ask. Get to know a bit about him or her first.
  3. Be on best behavior
  4. Don’t monopolize that person’s time. Keep it brief and sweet. Make sure to get his or her contact information and suggest that you’ll follow up with him or her.
  5. Thank him or her for his or her time.
  6. Make sure to save your ugly sweater for the Ugly Sweater Party.

As Brian Cohen suggested, timing is everything – and don’t waste time. After all, it is the one thing you cannot replace.

And remember: the better part of luck is being in the right place at the right time. Genius! Onward and forward.

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