You Can’t Give Yourself Credibility
You know your company will be a great success, but why should I believe you?
Starting a company from scratch is an exercise in vision and hope. Initially, there is nothing there. But by working diligently day by day on your startup, you make progress. And progress is measured by vision slowly becoming reality. Each passing day of reality-building contributes to your credibility. Your credibility is measured by the people in and around the startup. The people who see the opportunity and come to believe.
It starts with a PowerPoint. A structured and visual way to take what is in your head and make it easier for people to understand. It gives a visual aid to assist you in a discussion of what you are so excited about. The objective is to start attracting people to the idea. To get them thinking about it and, hopefully, even talking about it.
Here are the three types of people you need on the team to get me to believe you are pursuing a great opportunity.
Begin with the end in mind...customers
You need customers to have a business. A customer is someone who has the problem you aim to solve, and they are willing to pay you to solve it. But getting customers with a PowerPoint is difficult. Customers don’t buy slideware. Customers buy software. They don’t buy an idea. They buy a solution.
But you don’t have a solution yet. You only have an idea. And that’s ok. Your job is to find those early adopter customers. The ones who are complaining about the very problem you intend to solve. The people in the market who get it when you share your presentation. In fact, they actually add value to the conversation. You discover they’ve been thinking about the same thing you think about. And you didn’t even know each other yet. Your conversations will build a relationship.
These early adopters will work with you as you develop the product you envision and they need. The more you get them thinking about it, the more they want it. As your idea becomes an actual product, they will be the first to sign up. The result is a free pilot. And the goal of a free pilot is ultimately a future paying customer.
The product builder
All companies are started by entrepreneurs who identify the problem in the market. Some of these entrepreneurs have the skills to build the product. Most entrepreneurs don’t. They need someone to build it. This is the second step in building believability—attracting a highly qualified software developer to the team.
Technology people are excited to build something people will use. They are motivated to write software that solves real problems. Software that makes people’s lives better. But that’s not all. These people want to make money and be a part of something bigger than themselves.
You will find the product builder through your network. All you have is a PowerPoint, so that’s where you start. Use this presentation to capture the excitement of the developer. As you talk through your PowerPoint, the developer is evaluating you, your idea, and their interest in your market. You are evaluating them for their maturity, their compatibility, and their demonstrated ability to come to a shared vision. For the conversation to continue, you must walk away from this meeting excited to work with this developer. You like the developer and they “get” you and the idea.
These early advisors will prove critical to your early success. In the best case, they will help you land the early adopters. I say best case as these people are very careful with their reputations. The more they work with you, the more progress you make with your product, the more willing they will be to refer you to their network of potential customers. Be patient here.
But there are also other needs in the startup besides customers. These include operations, finance, and sales expertise. These advisors should be recognized names in your market. Even if they are not very active as an advisor, you can be sure their name will speak to your credibility.
I’ve seen entrepreneurs do a brilliant job in putting this initial team of advisors together. The key is to decide the experienced advice you need to build the startup, while adding the industry credibility to your brand.
An early-stage company that surrounds itself with these three team members is for real. There is nothing more credible than a paying customer. And to get the paying customers, you must develop and deliver product. Lastly, the industry advisors are the startup’s icing on the cake.
People are your credibility. It is not what you say that makes you real. It is what they say about you that makes you real.