Emails to a Young Entrepreneur: Applying Finding Talent

Day 120 of Self Quarantine             Covid 19 Deaths in U.S.:  135,000

Applying Finding Talent

The art form for finding talent is as simple as telling a good, compelling story about your “Why.” Dana was able to attract her co-founder with a 15 second story. The work in finding talent is the combination of being in the right place with the right story.

The flipping perspective theme for this week of exercises is observing how people in the startup ecosystem introduce themselves in “meetup” like settings.

We live in a time of Meetups. Through signing up at and subscribing to Startup Digest you are made aware of the many events related to your startup that are occurring weekly in your geography. Many of those Meetups are broadcasting their meeting video over the Internet. Look for meetups that are relevant to your startup. In addition, look for events where startups are doing short investor presentations – like at Angel Investment Forums, MIT Enterprise Forums, university business plan competitions or startup accelerator demo days.

The observational work is to attend seven nights of relevant Meetups, preferably in person. At the beginning of most small to medium sized Meetups each person introduces themselves to facilitate interactions later in the networking sessions.

It is these introductions that you want to pay close attention to. For each meetup, pick one example of an introduction that resonated with you. Make sure to take a photo or two of the Meetup setting and the people that are present for your flipped perspective exercise.

At the end of the seven days, what patterns emerge on what works for these fifteen second introductions? Did these patterns impact how you described yourself over the course of the seven Meetups?

In summary, for seven days:

    • Attend a “meetup”
    • Take photos of the participants in different stages of the Meetup
    • Each day select one introduction that resonated with you
    • Free write about that introduction

Here are a couple of examples of seeking lead customers and lead investors.

February 1, 2014

After taking a two year break, Cathi Hatch of Zino Society twisted my arm to rejoin Zino as a coach. I agreed and then two days later she asked me if I would be a panelist for the Angels and Demons investment forum coming up. I agreed without knowing what I was getting into. I figured there would be 30-40 people in the audience and the usual mix of high tech companies. When I walked into the room I couldn’t believe the 150 people that were already there. Then I looked at the presenting companies and found that three of them were Cannabis new ventures under Washington State law. What an interesting night this is turning out to be. Nine companies presented with one not-for-profit and one update from a company that had presented previously. Each of these companies was pitching to find that lead investor that could kickstart their company. The panelists were a range of VCs, super angels, and me. Cathi and her team do a good job of trying to match companies with the investors in the audience through their “green sheets” where attendees can provide comments on the pitch and check a box for wanting more information, to make connections to customers, or to invest in the startup. The demon in me looked at the one page info sheets from the cannabis companies and started chuckling at the thought “what were they smoking when they came up with this plan?” I figured somebody on the panel would use that to get a chuckle. I was delighted when nobody did and I had the last opportunity to ask the companies a question and used the chuckle line to the delight of the crowd. One of the panelists leaned over to me and shared “clearly a lot of the teams were smoking something when they came up with their plans!” I am glad I am on this side of the presentations as it is really difficult to present in a five minute pitch the essence of this conceiving of a new venture that the entrepreneur has sweated blood and tears over. Yet, these forums provide an opportunity to get in front of 150 investors at one time instead of the labor intensive activity of first finding an accredited investor and then meeting them one on one. Thankfully there are many forums in strong startup ecosystems like Seattle for an entrepreneur to look for their lead investor.

February 2, 2014

At the Angels and Demons Zino Society event, the only interesting company to me was HUBEdu who were pitching their tool for bridging the gap between Facebook and Learning Management Systems. Tiffany Reiss is the CEO and a professor at several local universities. She clearly has passion about her idea to engage students where they already hangout – in social media. The entrepreneur assassin in me found a lot to dislike. Because I was in expert panelist mode, when Tiffany’s lead developer, Chris Airola, came up to me after the event, I unloaded on him with everything that was wrong with their pitch. Well, my Vistage training didn’t last very long. He withstood my barrage of negatives and then asked if I would meet with the management team. He was interested both in my investor experiences as well as the potential for me to be a lead customer with my teaching at UW and the Institute of Design. I was impressed that he was paying attention and using the forum for double duty – find customers and find investors. Maybe there is hope for this group. I agree to a meeting and make a vow to myself to be more in Vistage “carefrontation” mode when I meet with them. When I got home I sent a collection of background articles on different learning systems and a pointer to Simon Sinek’s “WHY” video. I strongly suggested that they watch the video and spend time on what their personal and new venture “whys” are. When we got together, we started with their “whys.” As usual even with a heads up and the powerful Sinek video, they shared their “hows.” I pushed back and suggested other variants and they still couldn’t see the difference between their why and Sinek’s example of powerful whys. So I switched gears and went through a few other frameworks like the four developments (product, customer, talent and investor), Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and RFM (Recency. Frequency. Monetization). I then came back to the WHY and Tiffany nailed it. After she shared her new why, Chris immediately saw the difference between their previous how and the new why.  The energy in the room exploded and for the next hour, Chris and Tiffany generated more good thoughts about their new venture than for the previous year. As we wound down, they asked me if I would be a customer and try their tool in my upcoming classes. Now that I knew they had a powerful why, I gladly agreed.

The Cosmos of the New Venture

Finding talent is the first of the steps in understanding the context that surrounds the core triangle of work of the entrepreneur. The overwhelming urgency of the new venture leads the entrepreneur to focus only on the core triangle of work. This core work sits in a much larger context. The finding talent is an ongoing process for the new venture. The needs are always changing and expanding and finding the talent, customers and investors is a never ending quest.

Finding talent is the journey to finding the other key players in the cosmos of the new venture – the founding talent, the launch customer and growth partner, and the lead investor. The talent is the village that raises the new venture.

Finding talent is VALUING DIFFERENCES.


You can find the introduction to the Cosmos of the New Venture here.

This entry was posted in Content with Context, Emails to a Young Entrepreneur, Entrepreneuring, Flipped Perspective, Learning. Bookmark the permalink.

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