PRIMEr’s Startup Journey – Lessons Learned

Startup Tip #1: Learn to Listen

“While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Apple (Think Different Campaign, 1997)

This snippet from an old Apple ad (you can read the full thing on Wikipedia) makes for a nice and comforting quote for those of us building a technology Startup, especially so after receiving a negative reaction to your pitch. Team PRIMEr has been there and we undoubtedly will again…

The comforting suggestion is that anyone who doesn’t agree that your product or business is an awesome-world-changing-multi-billion-dollar-idea are so narrow-mindedly conformist they can’t possibly appreciate your rare brand of once-in-a-generation genius. That, or they are just plain stupid. Or, perhaps they are just bitter and jealous of your awesome-world-changing-multi-billion-dollar-idea and want nothing more than for you to fail…

The likelihood is that none of these are true and if you stubbornly stick to this belief, you will probably find you and your idea going absolutely nowhere.

So, in other words, yes, at certain times during the Startup journey you probably are just a bit crazy. Which is OK, you’re emotionally-invested in what you’re doing and it’s impossible to have any real objectivity about it. But eventually you’ll need to get some perspective, learn to listen, and conduct an honest internal debrief about the outcome of each pitching exercise (even where it wasn’t a disaster). After all, the best idea in the world is useless (and worthless) if no one understands what its meant to do and why anyone would want it.

Some suggested questions for a pitching debrief:

  • Which questions did we struggle to answer?  These questions may have never occurred to you or your team because they were part of your personal, unstated assumptions. Go back and do the work on validating these assumptions and be prepared to defend them next time.  Statistics and market research are your ammunition in your pitching arsenal.
  • Did we understand the aptitude of the person we were pitching to?  For example, were they someone with knowledge of the technology or did they need more information and facts to understand the market potential for the application of it within your product?  Pre-mapping the priorities and interests of the people you’re pitching will help ensure you can answer questions based on the individual priorities and interests of your audience.
  • Are our target markets, unique selling propositions and value propositions specific enough?  If you haven’t narrowed down your market beyond “everybody” you probably don’t have a clear value proposition or achievable execution and marketing plan. A very non-specific response to these kinds of questions will be confusing for your audience and will quickly convince them you need to do a lot more work on refining your business model.  Either that or they will mistake your idea for something already on the market.
  • Did we get to the point quickly enough? It can be tempting to draw a large and exciting long-term vision of all the cool future possibilities of your product but you’re more than likely to confuse your audience and lose their attention. Get to the point quickly about the value proposition for your market now.

Something that Team PRIMEr has learned is to practice the pitch but…

  • Don’t burn through your high-value contacts.  Practice your pitch on people who aren’t going to make or break your business by forming an early, negative impression of your idea. Mix it up, pitching to technical bods, business people and potential users.


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