Self-awareness is important for startup founders; A response to a discussion post about social skills

Your self-value has to be based on your self

Editor’s note: e27 publishes relevant guest contributions from the community. This article was originally posted as a response to the discussion post, I got a great idea but have little business or social skills; how can I approach investors? Share your honest opinions and expert knowledge by submitting your content here


There are multiple things that need addressing, but to me the most important is you, and your mind-set. Before the product, before the idea, there is you. It all rests on you, and rightly so.

You, if you want it or not, are the one with the vision, and indeed the drive to at least bring the product into realisation. You may think the mantle is ill-fitting, but you are the leader. When you think you have nothing to show, that is when you hopefully realise that you have the one thing you really need; you.

Be it investors, partners, team members, etc, all will be analysing you. Have you got the intelligence, the drive, the passion, the vision, the humility, the humbleness, the arrogance, the pigheadedness, the self-awareness, to make it. Yes, there are multiple contradictions in my last line, but I stand by it.

I left out confidence from the above list, for you have stated you have little confidence in attracting talent, stand in front of investors, etc, etc. You need to face the root causes of why you lack confidence. Now one could say that it is little confidence in attracting talent, little confidence in standing in front of investors due to figures and projections (will ignore the etcetera in that line, although it needs quantifying), but I think that is incorrect to do so, for there are other lines which suggest that you have an issue with negativity from other people’s opinions of you, your product, etc.

Everybody has a right to their own views, beliefs, thoughts, state of being, etc. If someone thinks your product is rubbish, or your projections and figures are rubbish, first and foremost, they have a right to that, and so one has to ask, why do you care what they think and feel? You may reply they are people you respect and admire, and thus their opinion on these matters is important. To this I reply, you are looking to appease, and that your opinion and self-value is based on others. This cannot be the way, your self-value has to be based on yourself.

Once you have that, then you analyse what is being said by others. Is negative really a bad thing? Positive is reinforcement, but negatives hold the keys to advancement. Take all negatives, analyse them, learn from them, make the necessary changes if you agree with them. If the negative things being said hold no value to you, then remember that person has the right to have that opinion; no problem.

You also need to take into account, that either this person speaks from a greater degree of knowledge and experience, or from a place of conditioning from that same knowledge and experience which has blinded him, or her. In order to be able to assess others, and have conviction and belief in your assessment, you need to know yourself.

You have said, that you have little confidence in standing in front of a panel of seasoned investors who demand all sort of figures and projections. Now if you know you are weak in certain areas, then the investor’s comments on that is valid to you. If you think your figures et al are spot-on (don’t say conservative, hahah) then the investor was within his rights to express his own views, thank you very much.

Also read: 6 ways every female entrepreneur can get the confidence boost they need

What you are showing here is self-awareness, you recognise you need a team, that you cannot do it alone. You recognise that you may be weak in regards to figures and projections; that is to be applauded. I see no negative here. You lack business and social skills, well then get team members who have those things within their arsenal. I should state though, as the man with the vision, you will need to work on your social skills.

Put yourself in situations where you will need social skills. You may not be as kick-arse as you would like, you may think you completely failed, that’s ok. You won’t win them all, so don’t be too hard on yourself, but neither be too soft either. Be kind, considerate and understanding of and for yourself. Small steps, small wins, long road ahead.

No one owes you anything, but by jove you owe it to yourself. We have dreams, and those that do not attain those dreams, by their own hands did they fail to realise it. Accept no gap between what you dreamed of, and what you attained.

Talking of dreams, it is not a case of build it and they will come, you are not looking for ghosts playing baseball. You are looking for customers who will pay for your product, investors who will invest in your startup.

If a human being thinks they can fly, why not take the safe option of validating this belief by taking off from the ground? Why jump off a cliff and flap your arms? (Admittedly you got everything to lose at this point, so might as well flap, but I digress.)

At this point I shall circle back to knowing yourself. Indeed, know yourself, but do it honestly, brutally, warts and all, for you must also recognise the finiteness of your knowledge, experience, perception, etc. This basically means, don’t think you know it all, don’t think that just because it is your truth, that it is someone else’s. If you plan to be the only one who purchases your product, that is fine, but this is obviously not true.

“Cool new device invented all by myself”, this to me, is standing at the tip of the cliff. Why climb that high without validating the need for your product to exist?

You should have validated everything at every possible opportunity, like I said, you need a certain percentage of the population to have the same or similar views on certain things.

I will skip some steps in the following, what should have been a few comments is nearing Gilgamesh proportions:

1. Test the problem, does it exist for more than just yourself, is it a common problem, a pain in the backside problem, or a mere inconvenience? “Clear vision, focused thoughts, no inflated sense of ego, god damn, I must be sober, I need beer now.” This is not a problem.

2. Test the ideas for the solution in terms of addressing the problem, alleviating the problem, etc. Is that what your potential customers want? I do have to state here, at times, people don’t know what they want, so pinch of salt.

3. Are potential customers going to pay? Will they pay? Can you get any pre-orders?

4. What benefits can be created within the product that is enough to get customers to buy it, without you climbing all the way to the top of that cliff? Doesn’t need to be all benefits, but enough to get that ball rolling. Lean Startup, MVP, and all that is known, so won’t go into it, but like I said before, it’s not a case of build and they will come.

5. Market size and growth, as you are wanting investors they want to see big markets, growth rate of market. Basically is your product investable.

6. I would also have checked out relevant investors in the sector — what are they looking for in terms of their criteria, metrics, etc.

7. You and your team, like I said, they will check you out; ideas come and go, products are made and then changed, but a strong team that looks like it will stay the course and see it through one way or another is a big plus, for some investors the biggest plus.

I will also state, that I think there are some issues with problem-solution innovation. Sometimes people don’t know they have a problem and other such things, but to me the big issue is that it deprives us our right as sentient human beings those moments of innovation where we sought to elevate ourselves. If Sir Isaac Newton had adhered to problem-solution innovation he would have created a hard-hat.

Anyway, another thing that needs amending is you “can’t really talk about specifics”, no problem, but you haven’t talked to anybody anywhere full stop. You have not one other person who believes in you, your product, etc. For all we know you could be a complete and utter nutcase (with all due respect. I was going to say present company excluded, but there is no company, only you).

Also read: [Discussion] Experienced and 100% skilled, but toxic at the workplace – Would you fire that guy?

I am all for self-belief and blowing one’s own trumpet, but sheesh, other people need to be at least nodding their heads to the beat. You should have interacted with others, to get their views. There are meetups, and events, although my personal preference is to target certain people, read what they have written, check out their company, social profiles, etc, what makes her tick, where’s she coming from, where’s she going, etc.

You also should have gotten onto investors radars, hey, building this, seen you have an interest in this sector, will keep you updated, etc. You take the information from wherever, however, then analyse, and learn. Not all will respond, but the ones that do, and there are some absolute gems, are going to make you think. Besides no investor wants sand in their pipe.

Sheesh, this is such a long comment, feel like I should dedicate it to someone, hahah.

Cheers, Ace.


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The post Self-awareness is important for startup founders; A response to a discussion post about social skills appeared first on e27.

Author: Ace Karim,
Puslished Date: August 24, 2017,
Published Time: 10:03 pm