11 Instances When You Should Ignore Advice From an Investor or Advisor

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

When should you ignore advice from an investor or advisor?

1. It Isn’t True to Your Mission

Michael SpinosaIgnoring advice is never easy, but it is necessary when people blindly apply detailed actions or tasks to a situation/model you know they haven’t fully comprehended. Large scale recommendations that go against the very principles of why you embarked on this journey should be disregarded. Stay true to your mission. Keep external advice focused around common occurrences.

– Michael SpinosaUnleashed Technologies

2. The Context It’s Based on Is Outdated

Michael KleinmannSometimes investors/advisors think because they have 30 or more years of experience than you, they know how to handle situations. While many situations are the same as they used to be once you peel back the layers of the onion, many are not. Reframing the advice in the context of modern business and listening to your gut are very important.

– Michael KleinmannThe Underwear Expert, Inc.

3. They Can’t Substantiate It

Andrew ThomasIf you receive advice from an investor or advisor that just doesn’t feel right, ask them to support their position. If they can’t articulate exactly why they advocate for a certain decision or can’t substantiate their position with past experiences, then you should consider passing on the advice. When asking, politely state that you want additional insight so you can better understand.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Video Doorbell

4. Their Background Isn’t Aligned With What You‘re Doing

Brandon StapperI also consider the background of the investor/advisor and take their advice accordingly. Everyone wants to give you advice, and there is such a thing as bad advice. If you are taking business advice, make sure they’ve personally been there and done that.

– Brandon Stapper858 Graphics

 

5. It Doesn’t Resonate

Erica EasleySavvy leaders are good listeners, but that doesn’t mean they take all advice they are given. If advice, even from a key advisor, doesn’t resonate with you, than it isn’t the right move for your business. That said, ignoring advice from respected sources is sloppy. Reflect on what you don’t agree with, and why you are choosing a different path. That reflection will make you and your company stronger.

– Erica EasleyGumball Poodle

6. They Interfere in Day-to-Day Activities

Piyush JainInvestors and advisors are there to support long-term goals and management, not for micromanagement. As a business owner, youshould have full freedom for day-to-day operation. If investors/advisors are meddling with your daily work or tend to advise you on trivial items, you want toignore them or express your displeasure. You can listen to them, but be the final decision maker.

– Piyush JainSIMpalm

7. It’s Hard and Fast

Dan GoldenAdvice, whether paid or free, is just that — advice. It’s never a “must do.” It’s a “Hmm, maybe I should.” When it comes to not taking advice, any that comes hard and fast is usually worth turning down. “Dan, you have to change;” or “Dan, I’ve seen this a million times, you‘re doing it wrong!” I still consider the source, but most often, I won’t implement.

– Dan GoldenBe Found Online

8. It’s Short-Term

Elle KaplanAt LexION Capital, I advise a long-term approach to investing, and the same holds true for entrepreneurship. Chasing short term gains will not ensure long-term success. You should always be looking at how advice will affect you years down the road, because any gains now could be ruined out by potential damage in the future. Any advice that doesn’t follow this should be thrown out the window.

– Elle KaplanLexION Capital

9. They Are a “Check-in Advisor”

Roger BryanThe number one thing to look out for is advisors or mentors that are assigned to you via an incubator or accelerator that seem to jump in, have a bunch of ideas, and then jump out of conversations. These advisors are very easy to spot after about one or two meetings. They want you to make major critical changes but then don’t respond to emails when you have questions. Fire them fast (you can).

– Roger BryanEnfusen Digital Marketing

10. Never Ignore Advice

Mark SamuelNever ignore advice. The real question is whether or not you use that advice or act upon that advice, but you can’t do either if yousimply ignore it. If someone is offering guidance, be happy to receive it, whether or not it’s in line with your own thoughts. It allows you to look at it from another position and evaluate which direction to choose.

– Mark SamuelFitmark

11. It Ignores Customer Data

Adam RootInvestors and advisors provide invaluable expertise, but they can be wrong. If you suffer from the HIPPO complex (i.g., Highest-Paid-Person’s Opinion counts most), remember: that’s not your customer. If investors ignore customer data, ignore them. Following such advice shows your customers, employees and colleagues that you cower when things get tough.

– Adam RootSocialCentiv

15 Ways to Reach Potential Funders on Kickstarter or Indiegogo

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What is the best way to reach potential funders when launching a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign?

1. Find Influences in Your Niche

Andrew ThomasIn the beginning of the campaign, I recommend reaching out to bloggers and influencers in your niche, either directly or through an early-stage PR firm. Find people who will join your mission and share it with their community. You want to focus on your niche and avoid casting too wide a net. This was a key part of our success — raising almost $600,000 on Indiegogo for our video doorbell.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Video Doorbell

2. Snowball Fast with Media Support

Jonathan LongSuccessful crowdfunding campaigns all have one thing in common: They launched with a bang. When sites like Mashable and TechCrunch write a story about a crowdfunding campaign, it creates instant credibility and the campaign snowballs into a funding monster. Establish media contacts well in advance and make sure your campaign has some major press ready to help you get it out there at launch.

– Jonathan LongMarket Domination Media

3. Work With a Strong Marketing and PR Company

Ken CauleyCrowdfunding is the future, no doubt about that. But success in crowdfunding is easier said than done. As this space continues tomature, startups will need to hire a qualified company to help manage the marketing and PR element of successfully raising capital.

Ken CauleyAdvanced Media

 

4. Start Early

Wei-Shin Lai, M.DWe funded in less than two hours, and it was because we did a lot of promotional activities before the campaign launched. We sent press releases to the local media, which put us on air and in the papers. We let our social media fans know, and we sent out emails to tell previous customers the exact hour of the launch. I exported my contacts from Gmail and sent most of them emails using the BCC field.

– Wei-Shin Lai, M.D.AcousticSheep LLC

 

5. Create a Video

Stanley MeytinCreate more content to encourage people to invest in your project. Consider creating videos like behind-the-scenes, inside the technology, or even a simple video that will update funders on the campaign progress. You want to create content that will make people excited about the product or service, leading them to share within their communities.

– Stanley MeytinTrue Film Production

6. Connect With Bloggers Who Reach Your Audience

Andy KaruzaGo after the major PR channels, but don’t count out the smaller, tier-two bloggers who still have a considerable following. It’s pretty easy to identify the audience they cater to based on their profile and the types of articles they write about. Many of them who would be happy to review and share your product with their followers without requiring a large budget to do it.

– Andy Karuzabrandbuddee

7. Launch An Event

RahulAn event already has a captive audience, press, influencers, bloggers and the potential for your product to go viral. The Pebble Watch, for instance, launched at SXSW. It surely helped Pebble get the word out there. They went on to have the most successful (potentially second highest grossing campaign) Kickstarter launch. You can even run an event-specific promotion for your campaign.

– Rahul VarshneyaArkenea LLC

8. Find Social Media Influencers

Marcela DeVivoUnless you are a social media rockstar already, leveraging your social circles won’t yield much visibility. An ideal way to gain massive exposure is to reach out to existing influencers on Youtube, Instagram and other channels and tell them about your campaign. Additionally, write for sites like Buzzfeed, Medium.com and Linkedin Voices to get instant visibility.

– Marcela DeVivoHomeselfe

9. Give Back

Miles JenningsAs an incentive for funders to put money into your Kickstarter campaign, give them something back for their donation and contribution toward your idea. You could give them anything from a branded T-shirt to a coupon to your products and/or services. You could even make them a part of your company in some way. This will push funders to get involved and even stay involved in the future.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

10. Get Feedback

Andrew SchrageElicit feedback from potential donors and use this to improve your pitch and overall campaign. Folks will be more willing to invest when they’re engaged and involved.

– Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

 

11. Spend to Get Started

Blair ThomasAlthough you‘re already looking for funding to help launch your business, spend some of that all important starting capital on hiring contractors to make your campaign a worthwhile endeavor. A well-designed, well-written page, with focused content and clear messaging, can go a long way — and it’s going to take a team of (part-time) professionals to ensure a win!

– Blair ThomasEMerchantBroker

 

12. Learn from Others

Clayton DeanCrowdfunding is a challenge and there’s no exact science to it, but you can start on the right foot by researching what other successful Kickstarter or Indigegogo campaigners have done to generate visibility. Better yet, find and connect with them on Twitter or Facebook and ask them. From my experience, most are more than happy to share their strategies and fundraising secrets.

– Clayton DeanCirca Interactive

13. Facebook Ads

Andrew TorbaFacebook advertising is something you should consider experimenting with for crowdfunding campaigns. Set up a few small budget experiments to test out different target markets and see how well they convert. Start small and scale as you learn what works best. Facebook’s video ads are also great for creating awareness and driving traffic back to your campaign page itself.

– Andrew TorbaAutomate Ads

14. Build an Email List in Advance

Mattan GriffelBefore running a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign, it’s very important to build a potential audience to promote your launch to; ,otherwise. you‘re starting at zero. One of the best ways to do this is to set up a blog-style site using Weebly, Squarespace or WordPress, and start writing regularly. You should shoot to get to at least 1000 emails before launching any sort of crowdfunding campaign.

– Mattan GriffelOne Month

15. Ask Mom and Dad to “Kick Start” Your Campaign

Obinna EkezieSuccessful Kickstarter campaigns generate social proof by getting backers right out of the gate. The most tried and true way to get early backers is to start with first level connections. Family (mom and dad), friends, co-workers, whatever it takes. Kickstarter investors invest in companies with traction. Don’t launch a Kickstarter campaign without having early friends and family backers.

– Obinna EkezieWakanow.com

12 Ways to Come Across as More Trustworthy During a Startup Pitch

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s your No. 1 tip for coming across as more trustworthy during a startup pitch?

1. Be Aware of Your Body Language

Darrah BrusteinYour body language says a lot without you saying anything. Be sure to maintain eye contact, face your body toward your audience, and if it’s natural for you, express your passion through your hands. Don’t cross your arms and legs, as it makes you seem uncomfortable and could come off as though you’re hiding something.

– Darrah BrusteinNetwork Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

2. Acknowledge the Risks

Kevon SaberThe best entrepreneurs don’t pretend their startup doesn’t have any risk. Instead, they manage risk better than everyone else. When you articulate your biggest risks and your plan for mitigating them, you demonstrate you’re a critical thinker who will manage their cash and the opportunity in a disciplined way.

– Kevon SaberJellyTelly

3. Listen and Don’t Interrupt

Andrew ThomasListening is a great way to earn their trust. By listening, we demonstrate a willingness to receive and learn from feedback. Also, don’t interrupt. This shows respect for the other person and their ideas. Investors hear plenty of pitches from hyperbolic founders who interrupt them or always have an answer for every question. Be humble.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Video Doorbell

4. Don’t Fake It

Corey BlakeIf you want to build trustworthiness, stop pretending you have all the answers. Acknowledge what you don’t know, and be honest about the fear you have as you embark on this journey. Being honest goes a long way to extending trust. It doesn’t mean that you’ll win every time, but when you do, you’ll be in alignment with your investor.

– Corey BlakeRound Table Companies

5. Show Solid Data

Nicolas GremionDemonstrate that your research and ideas are based on strong foundation of solid data. Make sure your info is recent, from reliable sources and compatible. Avoid vague statements and numbers. Be precise when you can and use supporting evidence. If your proclamations and numbers seem dodgy, so will you. If you come across as well prepared and researched, it will add to your credibility.

– Nicolas GremionFree-eBooks.net

6. Bring Someone Experienced Along

Matt DoyleWhether it’s someone close to you who’s willing to help you through this stage, or someone you’ve paid for their consulting services, a veteran always looks good on your side of the table. Bringing experience into the leadership early is reliable proof to investors that you are taking this venture seriously.

– Matt DoyleExcel Builders

7. Relax

jared-brownAny nervous tics you have will come out during a startup pitch if you don’t relax. Many of these tics, like failing to make eye contact, sweating, talking too much or too fast, or not talking enough, are often interpreted as a lack of trustworthiness. People respond much better to relaxed people than to someone who’s wound up, so find a technique you like and practice it as much as you can.

– Jared BrownHubstaff

8. Don’t Come Across as Too Eager or Desperate

Shawn PoratWhile you naturally want to be enthusiastic and persuasive, don’t be too attached to the outcome of any one meeting with a potential investor. Think of it as a conversation where you’re explaining your idea. If the other person is interested, great; if not, you can always approach others who are more suitable. If you are too eager, the other person can sense this and trust you less.

– Shawn PoratFortune Cookie Advertising

9. Stay Levelheaded

Mark SamuelIt’s very important to remember that when you’re pitching your idea, you’ll always be the most passionate person in the room. If you’re already fired up, take a step back and slow it down a little. Most people making the decisions will remain very levelheaded, so you want to passionately convey your idea without overkill, or you’ll scare them off. Make them believe in your idea.

– Mark SamuelFitmark

10. Share a Compelling Story

Lauren PerkinsWhether that means admitting something you’ve been wrong about or sharing a story from your past, investors are people, and they invest in people. Share a compelling story of how and why your idea came to be and why you are the best team for the opportunity. It helps to admit what you need to validate or learn to get to the big win.

– Lauren PerkinsPerks Consulting

11. Make Them Part of the Equation

Miles JenningsInvestors and venture capitalists don’t want to be treated solely as a source of funding. They want to know that they can be a part of your vision too! When pitching, make the story about them. Involve them in the outcome and success of your company and show that they can be an integral part of your dream in the future. They will be able to see much more value in this kind of opportunity.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

12. Be Overprepared

SathvikTantryThe best way to garner confidence and trust in your startup is to anticipate and prepare for any curveballs ahead of time. To do this, you need to poke holes in your own business plan and understand all the risks associated with your startup ahead of time. Then you need to figure out how to either accept or mitigate each one of those risks and back them up with solid numbers and market research.

– Sathvik TantryFormSwift

12 Things You Should Do After a Promising Meeting With a Potential Investor

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s one thing I should do AFTER a promising meeting with a potential investor?

1. Check In

Alec BowersShow initiative after the meeting and proactively address your follow-up points (at the end of the meeting you should have set some items to follow up with). Don’t wait longer than 8 to 12 hours. Investors want to see your initiative, your attention to detail and how good you are at executing follow up. Many a startup has lost investors due to poor/incomplete follow up.

– Alec BowersAbraxas Biosystems

2. Act on Their Feedback

Jason LaIt’s essential to be a prudent entrepreneur and address potential investors’ feedback before scheduling another meeting with them. Investors believe in the adage “actions speak louder than words,” so demonstrate that you have taken action to address their concerns. Some entrepreneurs are so enthusiastic about their venture that they ignore valuable feedback and continue to solicit financing.

– Jason Thanh La, Merchant Service Group, LLC & K5 Ventures

3. Ask Questions

Bhavin ParikhA common mistake that founders make is coming across as too desperate. You want to show investors that they need to prove themselves to you as well — you are a scarce resource. In your follow up, you‘ll want to thank them for their time, but you also want to ask them to sell themselves to you with questions like, “Can you give me an intro to a founder you‘ve invested in?” You need to play the game!

– Bhavin ParikhMagoosh Inc

4. Keep Them Updated

Sohin ShahEven if a meeting goes well, it doesn’t guarantee closing. The best way to work towards converting interest into commitment is by keeping the investor in the loop on progress and new initiatives. This helps build their confidence in you, in your product/company and allows them to feel like a part of the team.

– Sohin ShahIFunding

5. Improve Your Fundraising Deck

Aaron SchwartzAfter you thank the investor, suggest next steps and take three minutes to celebrate, you must re-focus on your fundraise. Take all of the feedback from the meeting and use it to improve your deck. First, reflect on which insights impressed the investor, and emphasize them in the future. And just as importantly, take the questions they had and make sure you‘re better prepared for the next meeting.

– Aaron SchwartzModify Watches

6. Re-engage With Them

Blair ThomasIt’s important to keep your deck up to date and find constructive and effective ways to re-engage with your potential investor. Keep communication high by providing news of new milestones, new opportunities and goals won, and by creating a general feedback loop. This can go a longway in keeping your investor interested. Show them you‘re a highly proactive owner.

– Blair ThomasEMerchantBroker

7. Track Everything

john ramptonRight after a promising meeting (or sometimes before) you‘re going to be sending them a pitch deck. Make sure you‘re tracking everything. I personally use PandaDoc for this. It will show you what pages they are looking at, not looking at and how long they are looking at each page. Next, follow up with them accordingly.

– John RamptonDue

8. Send a Memorable Gift

Drew GurleyYou have a small time frame to make a big impression. A great way to follow up is to use a memorable and unique gift. I actually learned this in a boot camp a couple years ago from a corporate gifting guru. A thoughtful gift doesn’t need to be expensive; it needs to show you paid attention and care about the relationship. Send it quickly and stay top of mind.

– Drew GurleyRedbird Advisors

9. Do What You Say You Are Going to Do

Shawn SchulzeSo many investor meetings are full of discussion, ideas and intentions. If you propose all of the things you are working on and thatyou intend to do, then show the investor that you are doing them. Talk is just talk. Follow up with the investor to give them a concise list of progress being made. Show them you are progressing and committed to doing what you say you are going to do.

– Shawn SchulzeSeniorCare.com

10. Say Thank You

Nicole MunozThanking someone for their time and consideration shows that you are thoughtful and appreciative. Be sure to mention that you truly appreciate their attention. Try to slip in any loose ends you feel weren’t addressed. Let them know you‘ll follow up in a few days/weeks to touch base again in case they have any more questions. Lay the groundwork to ask for referrals at the next meeting.

– Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

11. Send Favorable Market Research

David CiccarelliInvestors want to know that others have quantified the size of the market opportunity. It’s one thing for you to give your assessment, but it’s much stronger for the investor to learn about the industry and current trends in a third-party report. If you don’t have access to the full PDF report, consider linking to an article on eMarketer, Forrester, or Gartner in your follow up note.

– David CiccarelliVoices.com

12. Call Another Potential Investor

Justin BoggsDon’t stop until that money hits the bank account. So, calling the next investor increases your odds of getting a check, plus you will carry that positive energy into the call. Additionally, telling the next investor how good the previous investor meeting went puts the pressure on them to get in the game.

– Justin BoggsZeeBerry.com

Learn more about Monthly Investor Updates:

Watch the interview with Justin Miller and learn how his monthly updates helped land his startup with $10 million in funding: http://vergehq.com/2015/08/24/how-monthly-investor-updates-scored-10-million/

13 of the Smartest Questions Investors Ask Entrepreneurs

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What is the smartest question an investor has ever asked you?

1. What’s the Biggest Threat to Your Success?

Andrew ThomasThis question forces you to demonstrate your ability to realistically evaluate your market potential and the maturity to acknowledge that threats exists. The investor is also testing your composure — as this question can cause defensiveness. If asked, take a deep breath and be honest about your threats and how you will address them. This builds confidence and trust instead of a red flag.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Video Doorbell

2. What Happens if You Get Hit by a Bus?

John RoodOf course the founder is critical to the enterprise, but especially for small businesses, I’ve found that smart investors want to make sure you have a clear pathway to generating enterprise value that isn’t just you personally working 80 hours for the rest of your life. Luckily, this can help you prioritize delegation, which you should be thinking about anyway.

– John RoodNext Step Test Preparation

3. Why Is This Opportunity Any Different Than Going to Vegas and Throwing It All on Red?

Jonathan LongI’m currently consulting for a new app and they have one investor who is funding the entire program. He jokingly asked me, “Why is this opportunity any different than going to Vegas and throwing it all on red?” While it was more of a joke, it was a legitimate question. You need to be able to sell and defend your concept. If you can’t, why should an investor feel comfortable writing a check?

– Jonathan LongMarket Domination Media

4. What Happens if Facebook Goes Out of Business?

Piyush JainWe were starting out an app idea completely based on Facebook. Investors asked what happens if they go out of business. We went blank. We ended up reshaping the model, though, so it would not be fully dependent on Facebook, and it ended up being a better app. Sometimes we tend to over-rely on big systems which can be more susceptible to failures than we are.

– Piyush JainSIMpalm

5. Why You?

Blair ThomasHaving to answer that very simple question can often stymie even the best stakeholders. Are you different? What do you have to offer that your competitors do not? Why am I investing in you when there are 12 other companies competing for my dollar? It can be a difficult question to answer, and one that you should have an answer for. Be prepared to argue your case as a differentiator.

– Blair ThomasEMerchantBroker

6. Why Now?

Charlie GrahamGreat market timing — more than even team or idea — has traditionally been the best predictor of a company‘s success. Chances are someone else has tried an idea similar to the one you are pitching. What fundamental change has occurred in the market that makes right now (versus 3-6 months ago) the best time to start this company?

– Charlie GrahamShop It To Me, Inc.

7. How Can I Help?

Zoe BarryThis question is a litmus test. Keep in mind not all money is equal shades of green. I’ve found the best investors want to know what my challenges are and where they can add value. Once an investor puts money into your company, their role is to help the management team build a great business. If an investor doesn’t ask you how they can help, don’t take their money.

– Zoe BarryZappRx

8. Why Can’t You Just Bootstrap This Business?

Ross ResnickUntil an investor asked me this question, I was convinced that outside investment was the only way to start a company. Answering his question forced me to analyze my initial product development road map and reimagine it to be immediately cash flow positive and self-sufficiently scalable. This fundamental shift enabled rapid, responsible growth.

– Ross ResnickRoaming Hunger

9. Who Is This For?

Vik PatelWe often develop business ideas by looking at successful models and applying them to a different domain — the Uber-for-X approach. It’s easy to miss the most important point: Who is this for? Being asked that forced me to think concretely about the people for whom I would be solving a problem and make the appropriate changes to the execution of business ideas.

– Vik PatelFuture Hosting

10. What Excites You?

Ty MorseAn investor asked me this to find out what motivated me, and I think that’s what investors need to know. Are you going to pursue this idea until it succeeds? Do you have the drive, the energy, the passion to make this work? This question gets to the core of who you are and lets investors learn a little about who they’re investing in.

– Ty MorseSongwhale

11. How Long Do You Think the Money Will Last?

Vishal ShahThis question forces you to demonstrate your understanding of the revenue streams, cost structure, cash burn and runway. VCs want to know how you plan to spend the money and if what your ask is realistic enough to get you to your next milestone. If you seek to raise too little or expect an unrealistic runway, it indicates that you haven’t thought through how you will scale your business well enough.

– Vishal ShahNoPaperForms

12. Does Your Business Align With Your Experience?

Erik SeveringhausLon Chow asked me why my experience didn’t match the market I was entering, as I left a successful career at IBM to start a B2Ccompany. There’s a lot written about product-market fit, but not enough on founder-market fit. Does the founder truly understand nuances of the industry? What makes it tick? Lon zeroed in on the misalignment in our first meeting and I realized just how right he was.

– Erik SeveringhausSimple Relevance

13. Why Are Other Investors Passing?

Fan BiDon’t take it as a passive-aggressive question and get defensive. You should have a good answer. The best answer you can hope to provide is that they didn’t believe in the market or where it’s going. Different investors have different theses on macro trends and will understand other investors not believing in yours.

– Fan BiBlank Label

13 of the Best Online Communities for Getting Feedback on a New Startup Idea

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What are the best online communities/websites for getting some feedback on a new startup idea?

1. The Entrepreneur Subreddit

Brett FarmiloeFor immediate feedback from other entrepreneurs, post your idea and ask for feedback to the Entrepreneur Subreddit. With over 150,000 entrepreneurs as part of the community — and Reddit’s uncanny ability to be blunt — you’ll get immediate and honest feedback for a new startup idea. Here’s an example conversation.

– Brett FarmiloeMarketing Auditors

2. Startup Grind

john ramptonStartup Grind is the largest startup organization from around the world where you have discussions about your startup, ask questions and get un-biased feedback. I’ve gotten some of the best feedback in the world from this site.

– John RamptonDue

3. Ashoka Changemakers and Unreasonable Institute

Erin WeedFor social entrepreneurs wanting to build businesses that literally change the world, Ashoka Changemakers and Unreasonable Institute are great for collaborating with other like-minded folks.

– Erin Weedevoso inc.

4. Medium

Ben LangMedium is an amazing place to get feedback on a new idea. There’s a fantastic post on The Next Web on a project called “Read This Thing” which started entirely through Medium. The author used the platform as a place to get feedback, built a list and saw if the idea had potential.

– Ben LangMapme

5. Startup Nation

SathvikTantryStartup Nation is a community of more than 90,000 members. Not only do their forums take you through every step of the process of starting your own business, but they also have great resources for entrepreneurs, including the ability to join specific industry groups to better connect with like-minded people.

– Sathvik TantryFormSwift

6. The #AskGaryVee Show

Kristopher JonesThe #AskGaryVee Show is hosted on YouTube and has spread throughout the social cosmos, generating hundreds of thousands of loyal fans and views. Hosted by serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, the show focuses on providing tips and answering questions about building successful businesses. Over 125 shows, available here, are focused on everything from raising capital to not making the same mistake twice.

– Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

7. ATT&T Small Business Circles

Nick FriedmanATT&T Small Business has a bit of everything for a new or growing entrepreneur. You can submit questions, read and comment on other posts. The comments are always insightful and helpful. The site has an entrepreneur-in-residence each week as well who responds to questions and posts.

– Nick FriedmanCollege Hunks Hauling Junk

8. Quora

Breanden BeneschottQuora is such a great community full of very smart, passionate people, including many experienced, successful startup CEOs, serial entrepreneurs and investors. You can ask for direct feedback from specific people, like Jimmy Wales or David Rose. I don’t know any other place like that.

– Breanden BeneschottToptal

9. Ivy Pitch

Jason LaThe best online community that I turn to is IvyPitch.com. It allows entrepreneurs to receive immediate feedback from accredited investors and venture capitalists on their startup ideas. The platform also helps entrepreneurs get funded and build an advisory board for their ventures.

– Jason Thanh La, Merchant Service Group, LLC & K5 Ventures

10. Product Hunt

James SimpsonProduct Hunt has quickly grown into the ultimate destination for new and updated product launches (whether it be an app, website or physical good). The way the community has been curated and grown (invite-only) has led to extremely high-quality feedback and conversation about the posted products. Product Hunt is fantastic for both marketing and feedback for any new startup idea — MVP’s included.

– James SimpsonGoldFire Studios

11. Valid8or

dave-nevogtValid8or is an online community where entrepreneurs can trade feedback on their ideas for free. Knowing that the community is composed of other entrepreneurs means that I can trust they understand my perspective.

– Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

12. Indiegogo

Andy KaruzaDon’t think of crowdfunding as just a way to raise enough money for a one-year runway — think of it as a market validation tool with many early adopters willing to provide feedback. If you’re feeling good about your idea, and it’s easy enough to get the ball rolling, go ahead and do an Indiegogo campaign to validate the idea. If people are willing to invest in it, then you might actually be in business.

– Andy Karuzabrandbuddee

13. Inbound.org

Richard LorenzenInbound.org is a fantastic community of entrepreneurs and marketers here who go above and beyond to provide feedback, advice and insights. This is especially valuable for startups in the tech, media and marketing spaces. — Richard LorenzenFifth Avenue Brands

11 Tips for Starting a Conversation With a Potential Investor

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

I landed a short meeting with a potential investor thanks to a warm introduction. Where do I start the conversation?

1. Get to Know Them

Diana GoodwinBefore diving into the details of your business, start with some lighter conversation topics, perhaps by bringing up the person who made the introduction. And let the conversation naturally flow to business talk. The meeting shouldn’t just be about money — it’s important to make sure you get along on a personal level as well.

– Diana GoodwinAquaMobile Swim School

2. Be Clear and Concise

Zachary BurkesLook, we’re all incredibly busy — imagine having people pulling you in every direction to invest in their next great idea. It has to be exhausting. One way to separate yourself from the pack is to be clear, concise and effective in how you communicate your company and product. If you can’t explain your company in 30 seconds, it’s either too complex or you don’t understand it well enough.

– Zachary BurkesGatekeeper Innovation Inc.

3. Start With Background

Mark CenicolaThe first step is getting to know each other. Find out as much about the investor’s background as possible and provide them with your background. Keep in mind that an investment doesn’t happen in a single meeting. Finding common ground can create mutual trust, create a basis for an ongoing relationship and ultimately lead to an investment.

– Mark CenicolaBannerView.com

4. Sell Your Method, Not Your Product

Murray NewlandsTell the investor how big the market is and how much money they are going to make from investing in your company that is inevitably going to succeed. Far to many founders start with demonstrating the product and talking about functionality without selling the problem and the business case first. If there is no problem or business case, it doesn’t matter how great your product is.

– Murray NewlandsDue.com

5. Ask Questions to Build Trust

Joseph WallaYou’re either raising or you’re not raising. And unless you’re having five investor meetings a day for weeks on end, you’re probably not raising. In this case you should use the meeting as an opportunity to build the relationship without indicating that you want money. Ask the investorsquestions to qualify them. Building trust in a genuine way is priceless, so take advantage of the not-raising mindset.

– Joseph WallaHelloSign

6. Discuss the Person Who Made the Introduction

Jason LaYou should start the conversation by talking about how you know the person who made the introduction, including why the person thought you and the investor should meet. You want to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework by displaying knowledge of the investor’s past projects. The next step is to present your pitch. Investors are busy, so don’t waste time.

Jason LaMerchant Service Group, LLC

7. Find Out What Caught Their Eye

David CiccarelliInvestors hear about thousands of ideas each year and sit through hundreds of pitches; they’ve seen it all. The fact that you’ve landed an in-person meeting means that you are doing something new or have a unique approach. Find out what that is. I’d open the meeting with, “Before we get started, can I ask what specifically caught your eye?” That becomes your hook for future meetings.

– David CiccarelliVoices.com

8. Ask Questions About Past Investments

Jayna CookeIt is so important to understand what the potential investor is looking to invest in. Ask them questions about their past investments that have done really well. Find a way to compare yourself and your ideas with them. Take this as a launching point and have your deck ready with information that you know they will want to talk about.

– Jayna CookeEVENTup

9. Build Rapport

Joshua LeeStart by building rapport. They’re already warm to you so let them get to know who you are and what you’re about outside of your company. Investors want to know your character and a big part of that is what you stand for outside the business arena. They’re looking to reduce risk. Knowing the reason you’ll fight so hard for your business and your big “why” signals to them how serious you are.

– Joshua LeeStandOut Authority

10. Find Common Ground

Christopher KellyFind some common ground and keep the conversation lighthearted before diving into business. After you have established a personal connection, the investor is more apt to help you. This help could come in the form of honest feedback, connections, added time or maybe even funding.

– Christopher KellyConvene

11. Be Prepared

Alfredo AtanacioBecause investors have limited time, you need to be prepared with a pitch that explains your business or idea in 30 seconds. You need to show the value you will deliver to the market and how the investor will get his money back. Remember that the meeting is not about you; it’s about the investor and what can you offer them.

– Alfredo AtanacioUassist.ME

10 Signs Your Are Relying Too Heavily on Technology to Run Your Business

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

At what point are you relying too much on technology to run your business? Why?

1. When Automation Replaces Personal Interaction

Shawn PoratIf all or most of your communication with customers and prospects consists of automated messages, you are missing out on the chance to connect with people in a more direct manner. Smaller companies in particular should take the time to answer social media comments and emails personally whenever possible, especially regarding specific comments, questions and inquiries.

– Shawn PoratFortune Cookie Advertising

2. When No One Has Work if the Internet Goes Down

john ramptonWhen the Internet goes down and you have 100 people in your office doing nothing but twiddling their thumbs, this is a problem. People should know that they can still get some of their job done, have leads to call, etc.

– John RamptonDue

 

3. When You Begin to Lose Business

Nicole MunozOccasionally, a client will contact us with a confusing issue. They switched to online services and lost a lot of business. Simply, online marketing means you’ve moved to a digital format, not that you can take the human element out of your operations. You’ll need to invest in educating customers on the new way to work with you, especially if it’s an older customer base.

– Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

4. When You Don’t Understand Your Business

Adam Roozen“Too much” technology is not inherently a bad thing. It’s possible that your business can be fully automated and you can disappear. The risk comes in when you no longer understand your business because the technology is beyond your understanding. Without understanding, you don’t have control. Without control, you can’t mitigate risk.

– Adam RoozenEchidna, Inc.

5. When it Replaces Higher Level Decision Making

Randy RayessMany times technology and data allow us to make smarter decisions and can be very useful. However, there are still many higher level decisions that we have to make based on intuition and experience that will allow us to innovate and be creative.

– Randy RayessVenturePact

 

6. When You Don’t Talk to People to Sell Your Service

Andy KaruzaToo many entrepreneurs are trying to automate lead generation through CPC advertising. However, the best and most proven way of closing the deal will always be talking to people directly. This will not only create a better connection with your customer, but it will allow you to walk them through the solution and answer any objections.

– Andy KaruzaSpotSurvey

7. When You Can’t Remember Meeting Your Last Client

Nicolas GremionFor those of us that live online, it’s not often you get to meet clients or business associates in person. And while a lot can be said and done via email or even video chat, it’s not always the same. So try to get out to the odd industry event, conference or even try to get together with some clients from time to time. It will can be refreshing, inspiring and beneficial.

– Nicolas GremionFree-eBooks.net

8. When Buying New Tech Becomes the Answer to Every Problem

Manpreet SinghAdopting new tech is costly; it drains productivity as teams retrain. So, if you’re the early adopter with all the latest tech solutions (to problems you discovered during a sales pitch) like a kid watching too much TV, you may lack imagination for problem solving. Low ROI, team management, inefficiencies, CRM: there’s an app for all of that and more, but they aren’t always the answer.

– Manpreet SinghTalkLocal

9. When You’re Messaging a Colleague Right Next to You

Kofi KankamWhen you’re sitting three feet or a cubicle over from one of your colleagues who is not in a meeting and you decide to use a messaging platform to ask a quick question or have a 15-second dialogue, you know technology has taken over your business by eroding face-to-face interaction.

– Kofi KankamAdmit.me

10. When You Start to Misuse It

Thomas MinieriTechnology is about one thing: speed! Modern business moves at the speed of light. So the question is: what are you trying to make faster? If you use technology to connect with and service customers faster, then you can’t have enough of it. If you use technology to replace connecting with and servicing customers, then you’re going to have problems.

– Thomas MinieriPlanet Ballroom International, Inc.

8 Universal Qualities of Great Pitch Decks

“Send me your deck.”

Early entrepreneurs hear this a lot. And it’s because a pitch deck is a great way for an investor or potential customer to quickly size up your company. 

So, don’t leave this important communications piece to chance. We interviewed eight experienced entrepreneurs to get their perspective on the important aspects of an effective pitch deck.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s one lesser known thing you can include in a pitch deck that will really wow a VC?

1. Revenue

Danny BoiceWe very deliberately set out to have a solid revenue story for investors from day one. I know this sounds like common sense, but it’s unfortunately quite rare. I can’t believe how many investors we’ve pitched to who couldn’t believe that we had revenue our first month in business.

– Danny BoiceTrustify

2. A Personal Connection

Kristopher JonesDo research on the personal background of the person(s) you are sharing a deck with, and find one or more things in common to create a lasting personal connection. Maybe you went to the same college or high school. Maybe you are both Philadelphia Eagles fans (that would make three of us) or both attended Burning Man. A genuine personal connection can impress a VC and set the tone for discussion.

– Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

3. Synergies With Their Current Investments

Daniele GallardoI found that it is really important to understand the portfolio of your VC or strategic partner. Browsing the companies that they funded in the past gives you an understanding of what is important to them. If the companies are in the realm of what you do, it is often very simple to find synergies that the VC would really love to see in your deck. Do the homework for them, and show them!

– Daniele Gallardo, Actasys

4. Lessons Learned

jared-brownTelling VCs that you’ve made mistakes and sharing what you’ve learned from them will definitely make you stand out from the other startups that might be pretending to be perfect. You’ll show them that you’re adaptable, resilient and perceptive — all qualities they’re looking for in a potential investment. Then show how the lessons added to the value of your product or expanded your market reach.

– Jared BrownHubstaff

5. People Who Believe in You and How to Contact Them

dave-nevogtIf you already have influencers and advisors on board, show VCs who the three or four most important ones are and how to best get in contact with them. Having established entrepreneurs and businesspeople who will sing your praises to potential investors is an important signal of credibility, and in some cases, it can sway a VC that’s potentially interested but still needs some reassurance.

– Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

6. Video

Miles JenningsVideo and imagery are what attracts attention most from any audience you are trying to speak to, even an audience of VCs. Include a short video in your pitch that shows who you really are as a company, what you have accomplished and what your goals are. The video will make your story more tangible and will give a VC an inside look at your company and what you have to offer.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

7. Thorough Financials

Jason LaAs an active investor in early stage companies, I review pitch decks every week, and I would be impressed by a thorough discussion of key metrics beyond mere sales projections. This should include compound annual growth rate, customer acquisition cost and return on equity as well as a timeline of the cost to achieve specific milestones. Thorough financials demonstrate solid business acumen.

– Jason La, Merchant Service Group, LLC

8. Future Vision of the Industry

Mike SeimanInclude the vision of the future of your industry. Too many people get caught up in the numbers and forget to tell a story. VCs want to know the bigger picture – where your company and your industry is going. In the end, marketing and finance decks aren’t that different. Both tell VCs a story and focus on getting them to invest in that vision.

– Mike SeimanCPXi

11 Ways to Handle Objections When Selling Your Product

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

How do you handle objections during the sales process?

1. Stay Positive and Focus on Your Strengths

When discussing capabilities and differences with clients about competitors, always highlight the competitive advantages and increased capabilities of what your company offers. If your focus is degrading your competitors, it comes across as petty and focuses the client on the wrong brand, partner and service provider.

– Parker PowersBig Brand Media

2. Explain That You’re the Expert

It happens often; a client doesn’t want to sign on for a marketing service that I know they need. When this happens, I make sure to fully establish that they are the fill-in-the-blank expert, but I’m the marketing expert. I know what I’m doing, I know what works and I am going to be honest about that. I’m not selling frisbees here — I’m selling services that get leads.

– Maren HoganRed Branch Media

3. Pause, Listen and Address

Naturally, hearing “no” can induce anxiety. Personally, I pause to ensure I provide a composed reaction. But before I do that, I also listen carefully to what the prospective customer is genuinely hesitant about. In many cases, they are not upfront with their true reservations. After digging deeper and identifying the real underlying problems, I address each and every one honestly and openly.

– Firas KittanehAmerisleep

4. Discuss Specific Cases

During a sales call or meeting, the potential client might disagree with an idea or method of doing things. I like to bring up facts to support my team’s methods. Talk about how you’ve helped past clients in a way that relates to them. If they still object, take a moment to listen to their reasons. It’s better to keep the relationship solid than to force something upon your potential client.

– Michael QuinnYellow Bridge Interactive

5. Build Crediblity by Telling Prospects Not to Hire You

To build trust with a prospect, simply state that you may not be the right partner for them. Provide suggestions for other types of services they can hire instead. This way you’re still providing value even if you don’t end up working with them. Most prospects will be surprised at this answer and will genuinely come to trust your organization. This will help possibly land the sale either now or in the future.

– Brian HonigmanBrianHonigman.com

6. Identify the Nature of Their Objections and Respond Accordingly

First, I try to determine if the person I’m talking to is really a qualified prospect. If the person objects because they really aren’t a good match for what I’m selling, I acknowledge this and politely end the discussion. On the other hand, if the objection is due to a misunderstanding, I try to supply the missing information that will help them understand what I have to offer.

– Shawn PoratFortune Cookie Advertising

7. Prepare Answers

Most objections you encounter are the same: it’s too expensive, now is not a good time, etc. Prepare for them by coming up with succinct answers (1-3 sentences). When the client brings up that objection, you can respond promptly without having to mentally compute your answer. Embrace objections. They move the sales process forward and help you better understand the prospect.

– Steli EftiClose.io

8. Find the Real Reason for the Objection

A customer will often give you two reasons for an objection: the reason that sounds good and the real reason. Most people dance with the first. The key is to listen and ask guided questions to help understand the real reason they are reluctant to move forward. Perhaps it’s something you can address and help them understand for themselves.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Technologies, Inc.

9. Be Proactive

The truth is we likely know what the objections or challenges will be if we have done our homework. Rather than exclusively selling with the positive, I address these possible objections head-on. It shows I’m paying attention and truly want more than their business — I want a relationship. On their end, it builds trust and allows them to be open to other concerns.

– Suzanne SmithSocial Impact Architects

10. (Re)connect With Success Metrics

If someone is unsure at the end of a sales call, I like to ask, “What results would you need to achieve from our engagement to make it a priceless, grand slam investment?” That question directly connects them to what might make the financial commitment worth it, and has a great secondary benefit: it will help us get crystal clear on exactly how to proceed if/when they do enroll.

– Jenny BlakeJenny Blake

11. Sell Your Knowledge, Not Your Product

Personalize your sales pitch using your potential customer’s concerns as a refining tool. Listen to what they are saying and acknowledge that they have a legitimate concern by repeating it back to them. This may feel strange at first, but studies show that hearing someone else say a problem aloud conveys a sense of understanding. Finally, tailor a solution to the specific situation.

– Simon CasutoeLearning Mind