Entrepreneurship has been a trendy topic for the media lately. Every kid with an idea and their mom thinks they’re the next Zuckerburg. News flash – You have a better chance of winning the lottery and getting hit by a car all in the same day!
I spend a lot of my time with other founders, particularly young ones, in an attempt to leverage my (very) limited knowledge as a resource for them. This activity organically forces me to allocate time away from DigaForce, while still keeping my mind sharp in an area I care about.
TRANSLATION – It feels amazing to realize other founders have the same issues that you do. There is sanity in chaos.
All I’ve been hearing lately is about the “cool factor” of so many startups.
We have this really cool feature that does X….Every potential customer we talked to told us they thought this was really cool…..Won’t it be cool if we connect X with Y?
At first, I played the nice guy and tried to give solid advice without offending the founder(s) who’ve been pouring their heart and soul into the startup. I offered alternative solutions, potential validated learning experiments, and in rare cases, my own industry knowledge. None of this warm and fuzzy, feel-good approach ever seemed to work.
Each time the founder would say “Thanks for your time and feedback. I really appreciate it.” and be on their way. Maybe they took a small snippet here or there to heart, but the fundamental issue still remained. Eventually I had enough.
Within the past month I have been on an absolute tear.
The nice guy has been replaced by a lean, mean, truth-spittin’ machine! I realized I was doing a huge disservice to the founders I was meeting with if I didn’t give them my honest opinion. Giving them the opinion was only half the battle though. I needed to give the advice in a concise and blunt manner. No sugar coating. No kumbaya stuff.
So here is my go-to piece of advice – “Nobody gives a shit about cool, they want to know where the fuck the value is!” Talk about a complete 180 degree approach. Over 4 weeks I have used that line at least 25 times. Probably more.
The reason this is so important is that cool rarely makes money. Gone are the days of businesses having a strategic plan to create value and make money. Everyone is too focused on getting eyeballs. A wise man once told me, “If they ain’t got no money for ya, leave ’em to die.” A little dramatic coming from a 62 year old but you get the point.
The best part is that the message is working. As soon as I drop the hammer, founders immediately sit up and begin engaging on an entirely different level. They have a million questions. They want to debate the “why” for hours. It is like everyone has been telling them how great they are and now they’ve found one asshole who doesn’t buy their smoke and mirrors.
The ensuing conversation has led to some amazing results. One startup realized their entire business model was unproven and that they were about to spend $25,000 on development for a product that they didn’t know if anybody wanted or not. Another startup realized that their value proposition was so small that it wasn’t worth being cool anymore. Lastly, two rockstar founders realized they had great value in what they were doing, but weren’t including that story in their pitch or marketing material. The new facelift has them looking like a completely different company already.
So forget me, Anthony Pompliano, for a second. This could be any Mark the Mentor (sorry that’s all I have left in the creativity tank). I’m writing this to get two points across. First of all, entrepreneurs need to start focusing more on value than on the cool factor. You aren’t Instagram, so stop thinking your business model is to “just get acquired.” The media, universities, and entrepreneurial peers are all responsible for bashing this concept into the heads of first-time founders.
Secondly, mentors and advisors need to step their game up. Stop trying to be everyone’s friend. If my idea sucks, I want to hear “This idea sucks and you’re wasting your time.” Throw me a bone, homie. Help me out. Give me smart, honest, and blunt feedback so I can act on it immediately. Just like employees want to work with A-level players, founders want advice from A-level mentors.
So remember, “Nobody gives a shit about cool, they want to know where the fuck the value is!” The more entrepreneurs and mentors that can focus on this, the better off the startup ecosystems will be. I’m trying to do my part, are you?
Agree? Disagree? Shoot me your thoughts in the comments or tweet me @APompliano!