Startups - we were stupid

The day it was announced at Dublin Web Summit 2013 Trustev was funded, I was there.  In the middle of the afternoon after doing 'God knows how many rounds of media interviews', Pat Phelan sat down beside me for a a couple of minutes. He looked as if he'd been hard at work.

"Pat, I think the reason Trustev got such brilliant funding wasn't because you guys have a product - it's because of your track-record?  Am I  right? I don't think investors back ideas, they back people - but is that true?"

"Absolutely Paul"

I wish I'd listened better to Pat.  One part of my brain heard the words - the other half was stuck in old attractive habits.

I was stupid & wasted a lot of time for ChangeAgents - & for startups.

Eventually the penny dropped.

Yesterday I wrote an email to a potential startup headed  "We've been stupid."


We got it wrong. I've just realised we should have considered your business idea exclusively from the point of view of an investor.

(1) the team - is it good enough to invest in? Means you + your people. If it's all you, forget it: investors won't back an individual - no matter how talented or well-connected they are. An investor wants to know "whose name is behind this?" If not the name + their money & time - the reputation.

(2) Good ideas are easy - prove me a customer. An investor wants evidence of custom: show me the simple website where products have been displayed & sold. Logistics, security of supply are irrelevant at this stage. Also Profits are irrelevant - business transactions are what proves potential.

(3) Business plan (financial projection) is all pie in the sky - cash-flow is queen.

We should have majored on how to build you a team."

Your brand begins you & your team.  

This might be blindingly obvious to you - but it wasn't so obvious to me.  I've spent too much time discussing the business idea, building rapport around that - and not enough time on the team.

Bluntly - you must build a strong team around you - otherwise you'll never get support  from others.

That's the most  meaningful marketing job you'll ever do as a startup.