Before you start a start up

Talk to 40 people

and here are mine.

Alexandra, Allan, Andy, Angela, Anna, Anne, Annie, Briony, Dale, Dan, Daphne, Darren, Dave, David, Debbie, Elham, Fraser, Guy, Helen, Herman, Ian, Jane, Kerry, Lance, Lucinda, Lynette, Mara, Matt, Michelle, Mike, Milton, Nathalie, Paul, Philippa, Rhys, Sandy, Shaun, Silke, Tim, Viv.

I wish I could remember who it was who gave me that advice about talking to 40 people before you start a start-up – it might well have been Paul in an attempt to contain a potentially hare-brained project and prevent the children’s inheritance going down the gurgler. But is very sound advice for a budding entrepreneur.

Around ten of your sounding boards, these generous people who agree to sit with you while you “run an idea past them”, will reflect back your enthusiasm and simply hold up the mirror that shines your big smile on any mad cap idea. They’re the ones that have gone along with your schemes in the past and had a good time, they like a party, love a bit of gumption. They multiply your conviction and get you cracking.

Another ten gurus might nod sagely while not really processing a word, quietly thinking that a “start up” is a hobby to provide a purpose until a “real job” comes along. Actually, you should listen to them, too. I am, in fact, giving up a great day job to set up on my own and the only thing between indieVenue being a “hobby” or a “business success” (at the moment) is me. So when these solid people ask, “I though you loved your current job?” and look askance when you reply “yes! I do!” – there is a prompt for some soul searching.

Ten people will become your regulars, asking for updates, feeding you ideas. I call these the “You know what you should do?” people because this is how they greet you, and then suggest something you’d though of months ago, or something clearly ridiculous, or present you with an idea of such genius you want to walk around the room on your hands. Treasure these people.

Five will open their contact books and their generosity will astound you. Chase up every lead. Good people know good people – you’ll need to get a contacts’ database when this happens. And try to be like them. Pay it forward.

One or two will not even listen to your idea – just tell you that if they were going to invest in anything it would need to be presented in such a way, with these key words, and this data – that’s 5 minutes of extremely valuable advice, right there.

And the last few are your rocks, your family and close friends, and you need to debate the whole big picture and potential long term implications with them. When you become an entrepreneur, it is their lives you are changing as well.  If, after watching you hatch your egg, they still bring you a glass of wine at exactly the right moment, drag you out of the office to clear you head, make you laugh, check up on your sanity, give you bigger things to think about, you know you have their support and your start-up will come from a solid place and will thrive. Love, love, love ’em.

40 is quite a lot of people. If you are still talking with passion about your start-up with number 40, go on, then.

Do it.


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