Guy Kawasaki’s best advice : Who the F are you guys?

It’s May 2013, and I’m in San Francisco with Dougal Edwards, my co-founder.

We’re a year into building GetViable, a platform that helps startup founders go from idea to product-market fit.

We’re pitching investors, networking and learning like crazy. On a Tuesday morning, I reach out to a VC friend of mine and ask him if he knows Guy Kawasaki.

I wanted to meet Guy and see if we could get him on board.

The first thing the next morning we get a short email from Guy, agreeing to meet the next day in Menlo Park as he had an hour to spare over lunch on the way to the airport.

We’re excited and terrified.

What are we going to ask for? Would he get it? Are we punching above our weight?

We’d had a lukewarm response on the trip so far as our proposition was complicated: Build a platform to gather data that gives a leading indicator of which startups are more likely to make it to a seed round and then use that data to position ourselves for crowdfunding for startups.

Three years too early. But we didn’t know it then. Clearly, the VC’s did.

We go over our pitch again and again and head down to Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park.

Guy is friendly, engaging and very candid. We pitch our product and ask for feedback, and after some thought, Guy looks at us and says:

“You guys have one big problem — who the fuck are you?”

…and he’s absolutely right.

He’s not being an asshole.

What he’s saying is that we need credibility, a track record, runs on the board and referenceability to build trust.

GetViable traded on trust that we were capable of helping early-stage founders and trust from investors that we could do this. We promptly asked if he would join our advisory board to help with this.

He politely declined (surprise) and said that Google was keeping him pretty busy. He did give us free access to include his excellent ten slides on pitching to investors which we incorporated into the product.

This one insight completely changed our approach to the business. We didn’t pivot completely but started paying careful attention to the small details that build trust. And it worked. BigColors acquired GetViable in October 2013.

Thank you, Guy, for the time and the excellent advice.

This is a fine example of someone who subscribes to the approach of “Give because you received, not give so you can get”.

Guy had zero incentive to take an hour of his time to meet with two guys from Australia with a tiny startup.

This is the second lesson I took from this meeting, and I believe it has made me a better mentor and advisor as I continue to work with startups today.

So have a think about your startup and figure out — Who the F are you?