Turning Good Advice into Bad News

Imagine, if you will, this scene:

You are in a group of angel investors talking with entrepreneurs looking for funding. Or you are in a group of venture competition judges giving feedback to teams after the judging is over. The entrepreneurs listen intently, nod, they’re understanding, and then suddenly one or more of their faces change, crestfallen, disappointed, cheated. Something that was just said triggered an immediate reaction:

But we put that in, they say, because so-and-so (the last angel group they talked to, or the judges of the last contest they entered) recommended it.  We specifically changed our plan to accommodate feedback. And now your feedback is in exactly the opposite direction.

I see it a lot. I’ve seen it for years in the judging of the venture competitions. Lately I’ve seen it in reviewing potential angel investments.

For example, one that comes up a lot is whether you go for the broad sweeping expansive view of future market potential, which some groups like and other groups tag as lack of focus or realism.

I like focus myself. Keep it manageable. Narrow targets. Getting to $5, $10, $20 million in three or five years, but more in control. More realistic.

A lot of other judges want to see a bigger pot of gold at the far end of a more distant rainbow. “How do you get to hundreds of millions?”

So they go for big, because the judges say so. Then the next time, it’s “but you have too many targets; you’re doing too much.” And then there’s that look again, the disappointment. We’re supposed to do what the last judges suggested.


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