Normally, when I read Mark Suster’s Both Sides of the Table, I just think about how many words are in each post. However, his latest post on confidence struck me. It struck other startup CEOs I know as well and has been a hefty topic of conversation.
There is nothing potentially more crushing or humbling in business that trying to start your own company. Every day you are out there selling yourself, your idea, your team and your business. It is the common reaction of people to tell you either a) what’s wrong with you idea or b) how to make it better. Beyond the friends, family and colleagues who have this reaction, if you choose to raise outside investments from angels or institutions, you will get more of the same.
You get the “no” from an angel or VC who had seemed excited. Worse, you get the total ignore from them (no kind “no thanks,” but just no response, ever). I’ve even had investors reach out to me, visit my office to get the low down and then tell me why my business won’t work.
You just have to see past it. Not just through it, but beyond. There’s a reason you started out. You did the research and you have the subject matter expertise. This is what will allow you to succeed. Even if you do fail, I think it’s unlikely someone will have called it properly–your failure will be unrelated to their predictions.
Once you get through that first round, which seems to almost always be a seed round now, you have to keep the confidence. That is what will get you through a Series A crunch (I hope so, anyway, we don’t have a Series A, yet).
You must have confidence, because no one buys or invests if you yourself don’t believe. Your team sees you every day–they know when you’re down. You must believe and be confident and motivate. I think you can also go home and cry to your family, because we all need to stay sane. Don’t try to raise capital when you’re down or disbelieving. Don’t sell what you wouldn’t buy.
I will admit to many a rough day, week or even month. I know that we’ll make it because we have the killer idea, the killer team and the will to get there. It will never be as fast or as easy as we hope. If it were, someone would have already done it. We’ll try to take the naysayers in stride and in the end we’re going to serve millions with a great product. We’ll make some money, too.
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