THE MOST OVERLOOKED SKILL OF BEING A STARTUP FOUNDER

Recently I wrote about the thought process that makes a successful entrepreneur.

I also wrote about my issue with all these silly articles that claim to give you the knowledge to be a successful entrepreneur.

In the spirit of those two posts, I want to offer another fresh piece of insight: THE MOST OVERLOOKED SKILL OF BEING A STARTUP FOUNDER

It’s one thing:

Being Able to Fundraise.

All the other stuff you will read is also mostly true. But the ability to convince strangers to give you money will make or break your company.

There are TONS of wonderful ideas out there that will never see the light of day because the founders do not know how to raise money. There are TONS of worthless ideas out there that have received millions of dollars of investor cash because the founders do know how to raise money.

And if you start googling “how to raise money for my startup” just stop now. You are looking in the wrong place. The best fundraisers are not in the startup world at all. They are not in the business world at all. This isn’t about how to make a nice pitch deck, or how to “tell the story” of your startup. All that stuff is a given. This is about you.

The best fundraisers are actually in the Non-Profit world. Grant Officers are professional fundraisers. They do it every day, all the time. No pitch decks. No networking. No accelerators and boot camps with mentors who promise to connect you to VCs.

The Non-Profit world fundraises the old fashioned way: on the phone or in person, with nothing but passion and personality.

There are some decent articles about what makes a successful Grant Officer (here, here, or here), but I will extract out the fluff and summarize the interesting points.

1. Being “Janus-Faced” (but in the most positive way). Meaning, easy-going, fun, and charming with investors, but ruthlessly organized and goal driven about your own business. VCs need to know that once you leave their office and go back to yours, you will buckle down and handle your shit.

2. Integrity. The Startup ecosystem is small, especially at the local level. Don’t be a dick. Everyone will find out about it.

3. Listen and actually care about the other side. Yes, listen to what investors are telling you, and internalize their concerns. They are also running a business. By seeing your startup from their point of view, you will better be able to bridge the gap between you.

4. No Ego. This is not about getting rich. This is about your company succeeding in partnership with the investors.

5. Trust and Transparency. Investors have to trust you and trust in your ability. Part of building trust is being transparent. Don’t lie about your historical performance. Be honest about the challenges you are facing in the future, and where you want to go. The VCs are there to help you. Help them help you.

But yes, your product/team/deck needs to be solid as well.

Now go get some.