Early stage startups need more than an idea.

I’ve been thinking a lot about early stage startups lately. I checked out a million rounds of pitches at Startcon the other weekend, and I’ve been having some long conversations with a couple investors who are pretty solidly focused on the early stage, and I have to say – it’s exciting.

When we talk about early stage, we’re talking about the kernels of companies that might one day shape and shake absolutely every aspect of our lives. That’s what we’re addressing, and it’s what makes the early stages of these ideas so interesting.

The problem is, too many people think that an early stage company is literally just an idea and a goddamn logo.

An early stage startup that’s actually worth backing, actually worth investing in, is always going to be more than that. The idea just isn’t quite enough.

When you’re early stage – true early stage – you might not be in a position where you’ve built anything big. Or sold anything at all. You might appear to most people as though you’re a burger and a fries short of a happy meal.

What an investor is going to be backing at this point is:

  • An idea that is fleshed out, thought through, and based on reality
  • A concept of your product/market fit
  • An understanding of who exactly your customers are
  • Above all else, you and your team.

If you’re in a startup seeking investment at this stage, you need to ensure that you have those elements sorted out. If you don’t, the chances of finding a backer are slim to none.

And believe me, if you walk up to someone with just a logo, an idea and an NDA, they’re not going to take you seriously.