So you’d like to meet for a coffee?

I receive, what I consider, the perfect amount of email introductions to entrepreneurs that want to meet me and see if OTL Ventures may be a good fit for them. I love these conversations. Listening to an entrepreneur talk about their company or idea and then providing thoughtful feedback is exhilarating and gives me a high similar to that of a great workout — only from an intellectual standpoint.

When meeting with a founder of an existing company it is usually pretty easy to do some homework to understand the what, who, and how of the company. However it is not so easy with a soon-to-be founder. It is often the case that they do not yet have much clarity around their idea, which makes it hard to provide any meaningful feedback to them. To counter this I’ve started sending over 2 questions that they have to answer before we get something on the calendar.

1) The problem you want to solve in 3 sentences

I want them to focus on the problem not their proposed solution. If people can’t explain the problem in three sentences, it is probably not well formed enough in their mind for us to have a great conversation around it.

These 3 sentences also serve as a great elevator pitch in the case I want to make any introductions after the meeting. Having to craft my own is a pain in the ass and takes the fun out of being helpful.

2) If you could only solve this problem for 1000 people who would those 1000 people be.

This is a question I stole from Tim Ferris, and I’m sure he stole it from someone else. The more specific you can be about those 1000 people the better. And don’t waste time trying to be politically correct.

For example lets say you’re trying reduce the instances of emergency room visits due to falls on the decks of sailboats to 0. The 1000 people you’d most likely want to solve this for probably look like …

White males 23–33 years of age. They have expendable income but no one knows how. They can be found on a coast but absolutely south of 40°N latitude. They’ve said “suh duh and brah” unironically in the last 3 weeks and have a closet almost entirely full of pastel colored polos.

Your product of pastel colored boat-shoes with suction cups on the soles sound like they will be a huge hit.

Help them self-select out of the meeting

I can’t control how I’m introduced to people or how OTL Ventures has been described. So I have found it helpful to be upfront about what OTL Ventures does. This also gives the person who wants to meet with me an opportunity to self-select out of the meeting if they aren’t a good fit. I’ve been doing this by including my answer to the same two questions in my response. It only seems fair.

OTL Ventures partners with industry experts who have first-hand experience with a specific problem they want to solve through software.

Our perfect 1000 people are…

  1. Entrepreneurs that understand a specific problem, know who is experiencing it and how to reach them.
  2. Located within 90 minutes of Fort Collins so we can work face to face from time to time.
  3. Have started or are looking to start a business around the problem not just looking to launch a product.
  4. Have the time, money, and energy to invest in the business so that it has a chance to succeed.
  5. Are self-aware enough to know what they don’t know.
  6. Demonstrate they have grit.
  7. Are looking for product experts that will complement their own industry expertise, push back on them, and be brutally honest.

A thoughtful response is worth the meeting

Assuming someone sends back their answer to the two questions, I try to get 30 minutes on the calendar with them. A nice benefit to getting the answer to these questions up front is we can skip a lot of the introductions and jump right into talking about their business and product when we do meet.

Teach me

Have a better strategy for screening meeting requests? Leave a response or shoot me a message. Interested in working with OTL Ventures, drop me an email at seamus@otlventures.com.