So, you need help with your startup?

Here’s an efficient way for you to ask for it.

Since my position at Whyd, I’ve been receiving dozens of introductions to early entrepreneurs who were hunting for expert advice and/or technical talent to build their start-up company. I’m flattered by their trust in my skills for helping them, and grateful to my friends who recommended me to potential clients for the same reasons. And, as you know, I am committed to helping people create start-up companies, because I believe that’s the best way for society to evolve. But, if I want this mission of mine to scale enough to match the demand, we need to optimize this meet-and-pitch process.

In my previous article, I explained that I avoid phone calls. I had to write that because most people who wanted to reach me for start-up advice were trying to call my cell phone first. (Some of them used to ask for my résumé, just to find my phone number!) That was not optimal use of time, for I, and for them. Now that you know that email is the best way to reach me, we can discuss the best way to introduce your business and your needs by email.

1 — What are you striving to achieve, and why?

If you’re an entrepreneur, the first things I would like to know about you are:

  • what problem are you trying to solve? why?
  • who are you, and what makes you a great candidate for solving this problem? (e.g. it could be your experience, your wealth, your contacts… you tell me!)
  • how would you pitch your project so that it fits in a tweet? (i.e. 140 characters max)

Hopefully, your answers will tell me a lot about your values, your motivation, your assets, and the relevance of your project. It will help me build confidence in your project, and in you as its leader. It will motivate me to help you.

The 140-character pitch helps me understand your main value proposition, which may help later to decide what to include (or not) in a MVP (minimum viable product).

2 — What did you try and failed to do?

The second thing that is very important to measure is your degree of sweat (or hustling, as Gary Vee would say) you’ve put into your business, and the spectrum of roles you have been able to play in it. Basically, it helps me quantify one of the personal assets I value most: merit. The best way to measure this is: you tell me what you did, or tried to do.

This includes what other people did (or tried to do) for your project: your co-founder(s), collaborators, potential clients, agencies, friends, and family. The more people involved in your project, the more I will trust your ability to convince people to take a part in your business.

One of the most famous example of pretotype: Palm Digital Assistant

In most cases, young entrepreneurs tell me that they studied their market, sketched a few screens of their future mobile app on paper, wrote some powerpoint slides, applied to several start-up incubators… That’s a good start, but in that case (and if it applies), I would urge you to read Eric Ries’ book “The Lean Startup” (yes, I’ll get a commission if you buy it from here; thank you!), and try to solve the problem that your project aims to solve, manually. By hand. Without needing any programming. Just using what you are able to do: send emails, call potential clients and partners on the phone, go out and meet them, etc… That’s called Pretotyping. And doing so shows that you are resourceful and brave enough to roll up your sleeves and challenge your idea by testing your hypotheses, on your own.

The more things you tried, and the more things you failed at, the more I will appreciate your merit, and be wanting to help you.

3 — What do you need?

Now that I know what you’re trying to achieve, and what you did so far towards that goal, I must be eager to read what your next step is, and what kind of help you need.

Your next step is a milestone of your start-up project. It should hopefully be the natural continuation of what you did, up to now. And I guess that, if you’re seeking help, it’s because reaching that milestone requires something that you don’t have. Or maybe is it because you have no idea how to reach this kind of milestone? In the former case, I will need you to list what you already have, and the missing parts that you need.

If you think that what you need is a co-founder, a technical associate, a CTO, please explain why. What do you expect from that person, and why this person would love to work with you. (e.g. money, fame, or maybe because you’re the best co-founder he could expect for executing this project?) Also, what did you already try in order to find one, and what went wrong. If like most entrepreneurs I meet, you’re looking for a CTO, please tell me why hiring a freelance developer (or agency) would not suffice, at least for achieving your next milestone?

An illustration of how startup entrepreneurs sometimes look like when they come to me.

Although it’s not necessary, I would also love to know what makes you think that I’m the right person to help you. Your feedback helps me understand what value is perceived and appreciated by my clients, and adjust my offering.

ProTip: Cut the bullshit

I almost forgot to mention something important: I hate bullshit. I’ve heard so much bullshit that I’ve become very good at detecting it. So please, don’t waste your time (and mine) trying to manipulate me with a cheesy buzzword-fed story. That will fail.

Now, you know everything I expect to learn from a new start-up entrepreneur seeking help. If your first introduction email replies to most of the questions above, and is respectful, you will catch the attention and interest of most consultants and talent out there, for sure!

Recently, I collaborated with two early start-up projects. The first one did not comply to my criteria (as explained in this article). After one month of collaboration, I was not seeing much hustle other than my own, so I left the project. Ayni, the second project, was compliant to my criteria. Our collaboration was very successful, even more than I had expected initially. The product and the team grew quickly, and we are now finalists of the Hack4europe hackathon that will invite us for a trip to the Silicon Valley soon!

If you want to know more about what I can do for you, and contact me, everything is explained on my website. (recently renewed)

And, If you’re a start-up entrepreneur or a consultant, I would love to read your point of view and thoughts on this process. Feel free to comment below, or on the paragraph that scratches you!