If you can’t make them care about it, it probably shouldn’t exist. Here’s why.
By: Tony Abraham
Every entrepreneur is tasked with navigating the startup landscape in search of the Promised Land – that magnificent oasis where angels bestow fame and geysers spew riches.
But that oasis overlooks an unforgiving terrain; a seemingly endless land littered with the sun-dried bones of dead startups. It’s a place populated by impatient scavengers and cannibalistic predators who lurk in the shadows of every crag.
They’re waiting for you, gnashing teeth and wetting lips. Your sole defense? An idea. How you present that idea will determine whether or not you can make it out of this hellscape alive.
No one cares about your startup. You’ve heard it before. We’ve reached a point in popular culture where owning a tech startup is all the rage. Individuals who fancy themselves “entrepreneurs” are seeing and reading about their colleagues’ ideas finding funding. How did Johnny crowdfund $20K for his app? How did Rebecca get her web service from seed funding to series B in under a year? More importantly, how come no one gives a shit about my great idea?
Believe it or not, there was a time when no one cared about Johnny’s app or Rebecca’s startup, either. The difference? They made people care. Here’s what you need to know.
DEATH OF AN AIR SALESMAN
Ideas are cloud-stuff. You’ve got a concept, and that’s all. Why should anyone care about your idea? It should go without saying, but what separates a half-baked idea from an idea worthy of taking up someone’s precious time is the R&D.
You absolutely have to put the time into market research and concept development. It’s easy to have a good idea, but how viable is that idea? Where’s the need? What problem are you solving? There’s a difference between saying, “My app is like Tinder meets SoundCloud” and “X studies show Y% of people want new music but don’t want to put in the time to find it. My app matches strangers with similar tastes in tunes and allows them to share whatever they’re listening to.”
Add real value to your idea by working towards providing some market validation. Your startup needs to fill a space that isn’t already adequately filled. Provide data as often as you can. Numbers speak significantly louder than pretty words.
TRANSPARENCY OVER STEALTH MODE
Unless you’re building a product that’s going to cure cancer or make time travel easy and accessible to the masses, nobody is going to steal your idea. Odds are, there are at least ten other people working on the same exact project at this very moment. That being said, there’s really no reason to keep your mouth shut.
Actually, talking to as many people as you can about your startup is healthier than you might think. The more you talk about it, the better prepared you’ll be to field questions later down the road. Plus, the last thing someone wants to hear is, “I can’t really talk about it, but I swear it’s super cool and will change the world.” That just makes you sound self-important. You’re not that awesome. Get real.
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU (BUT IT REALLY IS)
Everyone is innately selfish. Ourselves are all we really know, so why would we be any other way? The reality is, nobody wants to hear about how great your startup is or how other people are raving about it. What any consumer wants to know is what you will do for them.
When it comes down to it, you’re providing a service and your patrons need to know that you’re doing it just for them. They don’t need to know that you’re capitalizing on a certain market. They certainly don’t need to know how you’re doing it. What they want to hear is how you can make their lives easier, better, faster – basically any “er.”
NEGATIVE FEEDBACK = POSITIVE OUTCOME
You’ve given the elevator pitch, the long-form pitch, the formal pitch and the half-drunk pitch – you’ve said it every which way to friends, family, co-workers, strangers and chance investors – and all you’re getting are “oohs” and “awws.” Feigned smile and forced nods. Know what that means?
They still don’t give a fuck.
Time to get on your knees and beg for some real feedback. Stroke their egos a bit more and try to elicit criticism. Hell, ask anyone to point out anything negative. There are always going to be flaws in your concept, and you need to know what those are so you can tinker with them. If people don’t or can’t point them out, you’re in bad shape, pal. Everyone’s just flashing their teeth and enduring your spiel.
THE EVERPIX EXAMPLE
Maybe you remember a photo storage app called Everpix. Everpix was founded in 2011 by a superstar dream team: Pierre-Olivier Latour, Kevin Quennesson and Wayne Fan. Everpix was great. Everpix had potential. Everpix raised an initial $1M in seed funding and an additional $1.4M in debt financing and angel investment. In 2013, the team decided to exit after Everpix’s net income equaled out to a nearly $2.3M loss. What happened?
Latour, Quennesson and Fan spent entirely too much time and money developing a great product and not enough time selling consumers on the reason why Everpix should exist in the first place. After all, why should consumers trust Everpix to store a lifetime of photos and memories? The bottom line is Everpix failed to get users onboard because the founders were unsuccessful in making the need for Everpix clear.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
What if, after all of this, you still can’t seem to get anyone onboard with your startup? Good. Kill it. There’s either no need for its existence, or you’ve failed to make that need known. Either way, your startup isn’t fit to compete in the market.
Failure is good – you’re getting your chops and learning how to navigate the startup landscape. Your next project will be better equipped to handle those impatient scavengers and cannibalistic predators. If you’re really smart, you’ll find a way to make those nuisances work to your advantage. With any luck, you may just find yourself sittin’ pretty atop that oasis.