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Getting time and attention from experienced advisors is a rite of passage for the first-time entrepreneur.
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Entrepreneurial advisors provide everything from informed feedback, market validation and technical direction, to introductions that can lead to partnerships, investors and customers.

Advisors are often former serial entrepreneurs themselves with well-earned battle scars from risking, failing and succeeding enough times to have sharp
insights into the venture building process. They have a special empathy for the struggling entrepreneur. There’s satisfaction in helping an up-and-coming entrepreneur avoid the same mistakes, and giving them insights that will help accelerate their progress.

Not all advisors have the right experience, and it is very hard for the entrepreneur to know which advisors can truly help their company.  It takes many first dates to find those perfect matches. But advisors kiss a lot of frogs too: Frogs, hunchbacks, maniacs, dreamers, neurotics – and I suspect a few psychotics. Entrepreneurs come in all sizes and for advisors it can be exhausting to try to help them all – particularly those entrepreneurs who don’t really want to be helped, or who are not ready for outside advice.

So, for the entrepreneur about to go seeking advice from advisors, here’s some blunt, very blunt, advice:

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I get bored and cynical every time I read a blog post from a first-time entrepreneur who has “discovered” the 7 amazing secrets to entrepreneurial success.  Usually their amazement is because they were so inexperienced in the first place, and some basic truths about business and entrepreneurship never occurred to them in the first place.  Much like how an 18 year-old living on their own for the first time is amazed to discover that ‘if you don’t pay your rent on time, the landlord will evict you.’ It’s an important lesson, but hardly an amazing secret that now qualifies them as an expert.

SFrustrated-PixleBayo many new entrepreneurs self-anoint themselves an expert because they’ve started out so clueless in the first place. Expertise is not measured in the difference between zero knowledge and what you have just learned – expertise is what you know more, or do better, than the majority – or better than other experts.

OK. End of that preemptive rant.

Now an exception.

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Brilliant and spot-on, as usual, from Scott Adams’ Dilbert:
 
Dilbert.com

 

 

Professor_Lucifer_Butts
Entrepreneurial and Venture Capital thought leader Brad Feld offered the following pearl of wisdom:

“I don’t want to see a powerpoint deck – I want to play with something. I don’t want to hear a description of what you do – I want to see a demo. I don’t want you to tell me your background, where you went to school, or where your grew up. I want to see what you are working on.”

via Getting Your Demos Right – Feld Thoughts.

While this was written in the context of wanting to see demos, the overall sentiment is equally valuable for entrepreneurs – particularly about investors not wanting to hear about your background, credentials and life story.

Personally, I don’t agree as strongly with the sentiment that the demo is the most important aspect of the pitch.   This all depends on the investor.

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Fragile Egg

 

I love reading Paul Graham.  Heck, everyone loves reading Paul Graham’s writings on entrepreneurship and investing.  The two best thing things about the Y-Combinator founder’s essays are:  1) They are intensely insightful – from his broad and deep understanding of the startup experience, and 2) They are indeed essays as opposed to the pithy, all-fluff-and-no-substance “5 things you need to know” posts that dominate the web – especially on the subject of entrepreneurship.

Below is a particularly insightful section from his recent “Do Things that Don’t Scale” essay:
Filed under the subheading,  Fragile:

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