How can we?

I was recently asked about the growing momentum in Buffalo, NY, specifically as it relates to the startup community.  I commented that for the first time in a long time the voices asking “how can we?” are louder than the voices saying “we can’t.” In my experience that’s an entrepreneurial battlecry, and one that often follows closely after the voices saying “we can’t.” It’s just one of those things that separates entrepreneurs from the rest of society.

Earlier today I received a link to the video below. I watched it and glowed with optimism. Not surprising were the volume of comments that panned the idea.  Frankly, I’m certain that along the way the team who created this project was given the same criticisms.  I’m thankful for teams and people like those in the video.  I’m thankful for entrepreneurs (especially those who validate).  I’m thankful that the world is still full of people who press on, who ask the simple and powerful question “How can we?”



Let’s call it Pre-Signaling

I have a few quiet respites in my day (when I’m lucky) and tend to fill those with reading my favorite blogs from the likes of Fred Wilson, Brad Feld, David Cohen and a few others.  I enjoy the different styles and approaches each has to sharing their personal views on entrepreneurs and tech in general.  The thing that always leaves me smiling is when these authors and VCs start talking about the “gotta haves” in the universe.  I love that VCs are slow-pitching ideas for entrepreneurs to execute!  Hopefully entrepreneurs really let that sink in – that ideas are just multipliers of execution!

I wonder how powerful this kind of “pre-signaling” is in the entrepreneurial community.  It would be interesting to see the genesis of ideas that entrepreneurs are actively executing to understand what moved the needle from idea to execution (or from nothing to idea).

Execution wins, so if you have the team and you can execute, does it make sense to play in this playground where VCs say “would love to have it” and you get the chance to deliver?  If investors (some investors) wait for signaling, do entrepreneurs wait for pre-signaling?

Connections, not capital, the ultimate early-stage accelerator

I’m a fan of Steve Blank and his Lean Launchpad methods, which are the genesis of the very popular book (and movement) The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Both provide a framework for early and continuous validation to accelerate the decision to persevere or pivot.  Both also agree on a fundamental tenet of resources needed early in a startup’s life, and it’s not money, it’s a network.

It’s great to see an experienced entrepreneur seek out advisors and connectors who buy into what she’s doing.  The “why” is an emotional hook and when you find people who can get behind that, there’s no end to the advice, open doors, and other resources that can follow.  Good entrepreneurs understand that the investment of time from a strong network can catapult an early-stage company or idea much farther, much faster than a check.

Advisors and connectors act like multipliers; they will improve the reach and efficacy of your validation, learning and sales efforts.  They can help transform your team and your vision when it’s needed.  They bring the experience and outside perspective that can be so important for day-to-day gut checks.  They are so much more than a dollar figure.  They are worth more and they can do more for you early in your journey than money.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Multiply your time and chances for success by seeking great advisors, mentors, and other connectors early and often! Eventually, they’ll even help you attract the capital you think you need early on.