Entrepreneurs must get out to get discovered
There’s perhaps a thing about basements and startups. My first few offices were in basements of apartments in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After my MBA, I stayed on in short-stay, sub-leased apartments that had free bed and Internet and allowed me cook my own desi food. I had a fat, second-hand IBM laptop that sat on top of a drawing board that doubled up as a desk annexed to my bed. In the initial days, I mostly kept to myself trying to figure how to make our company happen through that laptop and my phone. Sooner than later, I realized that I needed to get out and do something outside my confinement.
Entrepreneurs love the idea of being discovered. You love the idea that someone would be super wowed by your idea and give you the cash to go make it happen. Business partners would find you irresistible and introduce you to their companies. Clients would find your product so impressive that they can’t stop themselves from calling you. And your fortunes would change overnight like those stories we read about in glossy startup magazines.
As you already know, most of the above hardly happens without relentless focus and hard work for a sustained period of time. And it doesn’t happen without you showing up. Attending conferences, organizing seminars, cold calling on clients, helping potential partners – anything you do outside your room would bring you a step closer to making your business a reality.
More than a month after hibernating in my basement, I started driving up to several potential clients near Detroit. It was difficult to be said “no” to so many times. I would sit in my car after meetings and be disillusioned with the whole startup stuff. Most of my efforts didn’t result in much business. But, it helped in one important thing- it created in me a habit of showing up.
When you show up, you increase your chances of being discovered and that changes everything. Here are a few pointers to help you get out.
1) Know that you are okay exactly as you are. It’s okay to be a shy, an introvert, nerdy, thin or fat, short or tall, clumsy, poorly-dressed, uncool, socially awkward person with an above-average business idea or intellect and irrelevant work experience. Push aside all the reasons that set you back. Just be yourself and do your thing.
2) Develop a short and long version of your idea. Find a way to articulate your idea or vision in short and long versions. Why are you passionate about this? What anecdotes come to mind? What in the industry do you really find frustrating? You will find these versions helpful when you meet others.
3) Be sincerely useful to the other person. When you meet someone, become interested in what they are trying to do instead of pushing your own agenda. If you run into an investor, don’t overwhelm her with your pitch like everyone else – instead, get to know the person by asking a question or two. When you meet other entrepreneurs, help them succeed.
4) Get thick-skinned. No one really knows whether you or your idea has the ability to be glorious. The origins of the greatest companies in history have all kinds of beginnings. Listen to people’s reactions but don’t let any sort of feedback dissuade you from doing what your heart tells you from within.