Young and inexperienced?
Want people to take you seriously as an entrepreneur?
Focus – get really good at one thing. Networking, software development (in a single stack), raising funds, managing people.
That expertise you build will demonstrate to your connections that you can see something through to the end. Don’t make the mistake of going in a lot of directions at once until you’ve built a strong foundation of hyper focusing on a single skillset or a deep, cultivated knowledgebase of a subject.
Keep yourself grounded – Experienced investors, advisors, mentors and other entrepreneurs can sniff out a self-delusional storyteller from a mile away.
It’s in the subtle little clues.
We don’t believe you when you tell us your start-up tales.
We don’t believe that you have 20 developers building your MVP that isn’t ready to show off to anyone yet and you cannot afford to buy a coffee.
We don’t believe you when you tell us it will be bigger than eBay or Facebook or Twitter.
We don’t believe you when you say you have the best CTO in the world.
We don’t believe you when you claim your unpaid development team are all top-of-their class Stanford graduates.
We don’t believe you when you claim you are doing things nobody else has done before.
Or that your SaaS has unique IP.
Or that you’ve patented all your algorithms.
I’ve claimed some really dumb shit in my younger years when networking with my elders or with people more experienced at software development, business development or raising capital. I cringe every time I think about them.
Be humble – even if you do know everything – always be humble.
But how can I be humble if I already know everything I need to know and I just need to get people to give me money?
Lots of questions.
Leading questions, dumb questions, easy questions, hard questions.
Your audience will judge you not in the things you say but in the questions you ask.
You will be viewed as the smartest gentleman (or lady) in the room when you ask deep, relevant questions that make the other person think.
Network face-to-face – I am not talking about monopolising people’s time, but getting yourself out there is hugely valuable. Email and SMS and phone only gets you so far.
Just be aware that networking meetups are:
1. Terrible for finding your unicorn CTO.
2. Have a very low ROI.
I tend to go with a mixture of networking meetups and one-to-one coffee meetings.
One-to-one coffee meetings are usually easier to set up if you either:
Can get an introduction to someone via a mutual connection who suggests that you and the person you want to talk with should meet over coffee.
Or have built some credibility by making a small name for yourself amongst the people you want to network with.
Expose yourself – writing (with focus – see point #1) builds credibility. Long-form blogging about your journey, your mistakes, your trials, your deep thoughts on the subject of focus, is hugely beneficial to building an audience amongst those you want to connect with.
Writing, whether blogging on your personal site, writing for a news magazine such as Forbes, posting long-form content on LinkedIn or a myriad of other credibility building outlets is hugely beneficial.
But it is NOT a quick fix.
It takes time to build that audience and a body of work that is significant.
Become a communicator – Join Toastmasters. Learn the art of communication. Learn to write a jargon free business memo. Learn active listening. Become widely read on your area of focus. All of these activities build your communication muscles.
Be intentional – APE! Attitude! Preparation! Energy!
No, I don’t have a clever acronym because hard work doesn’t come wrapped in clever acronyms.
Your attitude as you set out on your journey will dictate whether you can start.
Preparation will dictate whether you have the skills, equipment and knowledge to reach the end of your journey.
Energy will make you get out of bed and take the next step.
Crap! I forgot one.
I said I didn’t have a clever acronym.
A singular focus of purpose will let you ignore those distractions and “opportunities” that are there to tempt you from your path.
One more… Persistence!
I have lost count of the number of setbacks I have had in life. How many times I’ve had the financial support structure of my business kicked out from under me.
It isn’t how many times you get knocked down that counts – it’s how many times you can get back up.
Attitude. Preparation. Energy. Focus. Persistence.
Your foundational credibility will built on all of the stated traits.