CDL: Building Something Massive
“In Vietnam, they don’t have telephone poles lining the streets like we do here. They never had landlines, they went straight to cell phones,” explained my CDL mentor, Richard Titus. He was telling the founder sitting in front of us about his motorcycle trip through Vietnam to try and show the rate at which the world was changing and innovating.
This was his way of explaining most things. Titus (as he likes to be called) has a knack for connecting with people and making them feel comfortable, and it’s with quirky anecdotes and stories like those that he often gets his point across.
The investor’s side of the table was somewhere I never thought I’d be. I had heard stories of investors being these big, intimidating people who sit there and ask founders about money, goals, and ideas, but Titus was different. Of course, he did ask those questions, but he did so in a way that started a dialogue with the founder, and because of that many of our one-on-one sessions would go over time, and have to get cut off.
Why this happened, I realized, is because of his generosity. Every founder that came into our room walked out with advice from Titus and sometimes even objectives to consider, even though he wasn’t the one who was supposed to set objectives for them. His willingness to help everyone is, I think, one of the most important qualities to have as an investor and an advisor.
During the afternoon session, I noticed there were three main things that Titus, as well as some of the other fellows and associates, looked for in each startup and emphasized:
The world is changing faster than ever, and in order to have high-impact, a startup needs to move at an incredibly fast pace. You need to have the momentum, the drive, and the passion to be able to become big and get on the market as fast as possible. That way you can grow while receiving feedback to better tailor your product to the consumer.
2. Be a must-have.
There are many problems that need to be solved, but some are more important than others. To be successful you need to have clearly identified which problem you want to solve, your “claim to fame”. On top of that, you need to know the market well enough to be able prove that your solution is valuable and that you offer something that competitors don’t. As Titus put it: “People want aspirin, not vitamins.” They want something to cure their problems, not just alleviate them.
It’s what makes a great first impression, and a lasting one too. Confidence is essential, especially when pitching to an investor. It’s what shows them that you believe in your idea and your company.
CDL was extremely inspiring and valuable not only because I had an incredible mentor, but because I was surrounded by people much smarter than me who all wanted to see the world’s problems be solved. I met several founders and mentors who all gave me really good insight into the tech and business world, and now I can confidently say that CDL does not only build high-impact startups — it builds future high-impact women.