Always tell the truth, its the easiest thing to remember. — Glengarry Glen Ross
I have started my second semester at the Founder Institute, Adeo Ressi‘s awesome incubator. It has been a blast so far, in my view, a lot of really strong founders wiht great, viable business ideas. It has been a lot of fun to be involved, and it is as always humbling to have smart, passionate people asking for my input.
As it is still early in this group’s process, some of the ideas are a little earlier on, still in “ideation” (terrible word) mode. This is of course a natural state of being in a startups life, that early stage when you’re still not even sure you’ve got a good idea. Its an exhilirating time–you’ve not made any mistakes (yet) and the world seems ripe to take on your vision, while at the same time, you definitely have those soul-shaking moments of doubt as to whether you’ll ever be able to turn your idea into reality.
Int this stew, founders will come to me to ask my advice on their idea, and I’m happy to try to take the time to listen and provide a few minutes of helpful input.
A question I have had and answered for myself is how hard core or harsh to be on someone’s idea when it is still on the drawing board. Although it certainly has its risks and drawbacks, I’ve decided that this is a time to be very blunt and hardcore. The risk is that this approach dissuades someone or that it gives them an impression that I’m a jerk. This is the last thing any founder wants to become–the startup world is too small afor people t get such an impression.
The counter argument is that by being hard core you toughen up a founder, you help him or her focus on the key challenges in their business, and at an extreme, you convince the founder that the idea is not worth investing time and life in. At the ideation phase, the costs of switching an idea are low. I have become comfortable with this being on balance the preferred approach–the pain is worth the value. I also try to remind the founder whenever I do this that my opinion is just one, and I’m certainly perfectly happy to have the founder prove me wrong and make a boatload of money doing just that. In other words, its not personal, and I’m hopeful that it does help.
I have come to believe passionately that this is the only appropriate response for founders asking for advice. My input is not costing anything, and if I’m off by a mile, there’s no reason that a founder should listen to me. You asked and I answered. No harm, no foul. Totally makes sense, right?
Right. As founders we should all be pushing each other in as hard core a way to make our businesses kick ass and take names. Give the advice, hit hard.