Why don’t more entrepreneurs drive to the money? I think it’s because just about everyone would rather engage their inner artist/creator over their inner salesperson.
Don’t feel bad about it- we’re just wired that way.
That said, if you want to buck the odds and make yourself a successful entrepreneur you need to diverge from the herd. One such divergence is asking for money sooner and more often than you’d like- for most of us, a lot sooner and a lot more often.
Let’s start with some inspiration. Remember that scene in Good Will Hunting where Ben Affleck impersonates Matt Damon’s savant character in an interview with a fancy think tank? And he asks for $200? I’m not saying engage customers that way, but if you’re feeling timid try to connect with Ben’s bravado.
One more example: I remember going to a ‘business’ workshop as an undergraduate. The organizers did a sales exercise where you had to convince the other person to give you a handful of pennies. The solution to the exercise was just to ask for the pennies- nothing else would make the counterparty give you the pennies. Most people didn’t get it (myself included).
WHEN, HOW, WHY?
When, how and why should you ask for the money? For starters, will a customer pay you to build it?
If that sounds audacious, consider the amount of software that organizations build for themselves. Much of that could be better supplied by 3rd parties if it weren’t for the overhead of identifying, contracting, and managing a third party relationship. Breaking down those kind of barriers is part of your job as an outlier, the successful entrepreneur. If you can get that done, you’re off to a great start.
If not, get your MVP out the door, emphasis on the M. Will they pay for it now? If so, great. If not, will they pay for a concierge version? Consulting is a great way to bootstrap a product idea, even if you’re billing below market (see my previous post on this).
They still won’t pay? Don’t panic but it’s time to go back to customer discovery and validation.
See the diagram below for a summary of all this:
(orthodox Lean Startup process simplified somewhat for sake of this post)
While some of this is more straightforward in B2B, many B2C ventures find themselves needing to be more focused on the money. Witness this extremely honest and insightful post by the founder of Referly.
If you’re interested in a little more detail,here are my slides from the 5 minute ‘lightning’ talk I gave at the Lean Startup Circle San Francisco: Lightning Talk at Lean Startup Circle SF from Alex Cowan
- Product Managers Need To Learn How To Pivot (theaccidentalpm.com)
- How to Build an Internet Startup (creativethunder.co)
- 6 Ways Entrepreneurs Lie To Themselves (forbes.com)
- The Science And Psychology Behind What Drives Serial Entrepreneurs (fastcompany.com)
- The side-project entrepreneur: 4 reasons to try a startup without quitting your day job (geekwire.com)
- 10 Principles for Startup Success Through Failure (alleywatch.com)