I had a friend come over to meet local investors and members this week to talk about his startup. It is a good company with very early traction. They are clearly not going to be a Unicorn in anytime soon.
The amazing part was he was not even looking for investment or money. He was seeking support and had a very nebulous but simple ask – get one person to lead the Seattle chapter of his startup and be the local champion to host events and hackathons.
Naturally, to an audience of seasoned investors and entrepreneurs, this seemed to be a small ask. There were a barrage of questions about “Why not do a bigger thing?”, “What is the market size?”, etc. Not withstanding the fact that his startup was already “in the market” with some meaningful traction. The entrepreneur was not looking to “Go Big or Go Home”, but really make a difference and also make some money.
In this market, where most everyone wants to invest in social networking applications that share real time video or a social network for dog lovers, he was building a different kind of company.
It was clear that he was not being able to tell his story and the impact his organization was making, since he was unable to convince most folks that what he was doing was material.
It would be a collective insult to the intellect of the room, if we did not support his cause actually or come up with ideas to help the entrepreneur.
When he was asked these important, but tangential questions, he chose to apologize. Many of his answers were “Yeah, we dont have that”, or “We only do this one small part” or “We have not had that level of impact yet”.
Surprisingly he had more impact on young kids and women in other regions, than I suspect 97% of the people in the room.
Yet, he was the one who was apologizing.
As an entrepreneur, you set out with a vision to change the world, however small. Sometimes you just have a small problem you want to solve. You wont even understand in most cases, the unintended consequences of your product or startup.
Just dont apologize to any self-righteous, unicorn chasing investor.
Tell your story, stick to your convictions and be humble, but stand up to criticism about the market you chose, or the growth you have had. Even if they chose not invest, remember that it is easier to throw rocks than to collect them and build a house.
Keep collecting all the rocks thrown at you. You will need them to build your house made of solid rock.
Until then, please dont apologize.