Recently I had to remind my long-term speed dating partner Vince (Pre-Dating.com), after covering a new concept that my team wants to try, that we are “old” guys and that we really may not know much of anything when it comes to deciding what is a good idea or bad idea. Let me first preface the word “idea”. When I refer to an “idea” in the Internet space we are mainly referring to a new business, a new website, a new mobile app, hardware, a new start-up company, or a new conceptual technology thingy that actually does something. Actually the words he used were “But I know what I like”. And those words to me don’t mean anything because what we like or think we like may only lead us to a big mistake. Trust me, what we like will not exactly work for everybody, or even a small group of the mass market.
What WE Like May Not Mean Anything
To work with entrepreneurs with new ideas, you have to leave your ego at the door and be an open book. So, when a few weeks earlier a young entrepreneur with a new concept wanted to sit with me and discuss his new Web & Mobile App, after hearing his pitch I sat thinking to myself, “Wow, this is a dumb idea, this marketing plan won’t work, and this logo and business name does not work for me.” So what did I do? I sat there and just bit my tongue. Just because I think it is bad or wrong, does not mean I am correct. I may be right, but it may not matter. The question is how to dish out the mentoring and get them to a point that you are helping and not being a jerk.
The Weekly Meetup & Mentoring
At least once a week an entrepreneur or a person I meet at Caffeine Spaces wants to sit with me and discuss their app. It may be just a concept not yet on paper, or a full blown application especially if it is in the Dating space, Social Networking, Education Space or areas I have been exposed to. I always take the meeting. And I have to force myself to sit and listen. This is not easy, because those who know me, know that I typically cut people off when they are talking and just start saying my own ideas. I have to cut that out and buckle down to get the gist of what they are trying to get across. Listening is really mentoring. Giving some rational tactical advice on Next Steps is the answer. Everybody is in a certain stage of development. If they don’t have their one page Exec Summary or a Pitch Deck, that is where they need to go next, especially if they want to raise capital or just bring on partners or customers.
Small Steady Improvements
I also had to remind Vince that an idea is just an idea. Conceptually any idea can be developed into a lasting entity or business, especially if the concept is tested. Vince had this one business venture we talked about where he had failed to gain critical mass, and we discussed a little bit of why it failed. He felt his “vision” had not been accepted by the market. Basically it was a $400 bootcamp about how to start-up a company. It was in fact a $20,000 value over 2 days, like getting an MBA shoved in your head. He had lost a lot of time developing this concept creating the materials and felt people were not willing to pay for the whole shebang. Well, the issue was simpler. He did not have to spend 6 months on creating a monolith and start-up people don’t want to spend $400, they have a hard time parting with a $1. So he should have tested the concept and broken it down into small pieces and gotten a web page up and running and just made small improvements finding his way towards success. That is how you have to approach this business.
“Investing in the Internet is similar in a way to investing in a farm”
Read this great quote by Technology Pioneer Yossi Vardi. Essentially you have to look at Internet related ventures like you do farming. I have to remind all the people I meet with new ideas to think like this and to sell themselves this way. 90% of the results of our Internet ventures will take 3-5 years to show results. And of that amount, many may fail, but many will start to come to their own if we continue to make those improvements and pivot and correct the mistakes we made at first. It will always take time. The start-ups that were overnight successes showed some progress, but event those are on a 3 to 10 year time frame till profitability and success.
South Florida Venture (Improbabilities)
There is a disconnect in South Florida between venture capital and new start-up ideas, that are not experienced in larger cities around the country with a great Start-up community. And event he angel/venture guys around are not willing to wait. They need to show results now, and always want results to be on the table. Real dollars, real traffic and real databases are how we speak and work in South Florida, and that means there will never be a Tumblr, a Twitter or a Google produced out of South Florida. You need the patience and the capital up front. We are forced to make immediate decisions on how our businesses are built in order to bootstrap everything, and when you get some financing it is a dribble if you are lucky. This is hopefully changing. My answer to a lot of young guys are great idea, maybe you should move to New York or San Francisco. Would love to change that, and things are changing, but not soon enough.