Last May we did a crowdfunding campaign for our smartwatch Pulse Play. Just before we launched, a lot of people told us what a big mistake it would be. These are the things they said.
“You’re taking a big chance.”
“Your goal is too high.”
“If you can’t get people to contribute, you’ll kill the product.”
You get the point.
The easiest thing in the world to do is to tell somebody that they’re wrong, and it’s a favorite pastime in the startup world. As an entrepreneur you’ll find yourself in endless arguments over where to take your product and how to build your marketing strategy, not to mention defending the idea itself.
Everybody has an opinion.
And the biggest offenders? Investors of course. In about 99% of the meetings I’ve had with them, they knew exactly how to improve my startup. And in 99% of those instances, they’d just heard about it 5 minutes ago.
As entrepreneurs, we have two options here. Either we can get defensive or, let’s call it, offensive. Defensive looks like this:
“There are good reasons why we developed the product this way…”
Offensive looks like this:
“Yeah, whatever. You’re going to regret the day you ever turned down equity in my company.” *throws glass and storms out*
The problem is that most of the time neither of these options will take you where you want to be.
Imagine a situation where someone is throwing punches at your face. You have two options. You can run or you can try to hit back. Either way you’ll probably lose control of the situation and realize later you could’ve done better.
In Aikido, the first action in most cases is to get out of the way of the attack so you won’t be harmed. But there’s a secret here: you need to exit intelligently so that you’ll end up in a safe, defensible position. By doing that, you avoid a clash and you give your partner the illusion of getting what he wants.
If your opponent’s attack is unopposed, your partner will expend all his energy in the attack – energy which you can use and direct into your next move. But in order to get the upper hand you will need to move in a direction that your partner doesn’t expect.
Almost every investor we talked with about Pulse Play had something to tell us. Instead of arguing with them about our vision, we listened, parted ways, and then showed them the way we do things over time. We put them in a position where they didn’t have anything else to say.
When they told us that crowdfunding wasn’t a good idea, we didn’t explain over and over to them that it was a marketing tactic to build awareness and bring early adopters into our community. It certainly wasn’t about the money. We did the research beforehand to be certain we’d reach our monetary goal, but our real goal was larger. And we met both.
And when they told us that it would be impossible to build a hardware startup in 9 months, we didn’t explain our methodologies or argue with them over the development process. We went home, we checked our plans, and we did the best we could to execute. 6 months later we had a working prototype and started mass production.
And guess what? The people who “attacked” us on our way here are now in the process of investing in sFBI and our ventures. After they saw that we were in a strong position because we meant what we said in the beginning, they came to us.
It just goes to show my Aikido instructor was right, in class and in business.
“If you want them to move, move for yourself first.”