This is before you do a triathlon and even before you own a proper road bike. I had an aluminum commuter bike and I’m pretty sure I was wearing jean shorts at the time. I won’t argue whether jean shorts were fashionable or not, at the time or at any other time, but I will at least acknowledge that they were not suitable cycling gear for a 60 mile ride with experienced riders.
But how was he to know? I didn’t have any friends who were into that kind of cycling at the time, and for whatever reason it’s something people in their 20s don’t really do often. Maybe it’s because they don’t make enough money to fall down the hole on expensive carbon fiber road bikes and all the various gear you can end up buying. Whatever the reason, I had no one to warn me about how crazy I was about to sound.
To my credit, I actually kept up with those guys on the way up, but on the way back I let them pass, leaving me to go home, sweaty, sore and very uncomfortable in wet cotton.
It was the last ride I did with those guys on that bike and with that equipment. I went out and bought a mid-level carbon bike, which I actually still use and race to this day, thirteen years later. So even though I spent more than I thought a bike should cost, six half Ironmans, eight Grand Fondos, including two internationals, and many other triathlons and duathlons later, I got more than my money’s worth.
I think this is like a lot of things in life, where the more you spend on something doesn’t always give you a better experience, but there’s probably a baseline you want to spend so you don’t have one less.
It wasn’t long before I was waiting on future hilltop rides for those guys to catch up with me. (Actually, I think it might have been the next ride or two once I had a decent enough bike and some real bike shorts.) Just a few years later, I finished with the 63rd fastest bike time out of 3,200 triathletes in the course NYC Tri.
I was quite athletic and certainly had the potential to be a good rider; all I needed was some exposure to people who had more experience with this hobby. A lot of these things weren’t even a function of doing homework on how to be a good cyclist or exercising, but more like “what’s typical”?
The same is true in the startup world, where there are definitely things that indicate that someone is not very familiar and inexperienced with this space. As insiders, we think the community is super open and transparent that we can’t imagine not knowing what someone’s pitch should look like or how someone could miss the lingo of fundraising, but in reality, it’s very easy .
Most of these things fit into the “How would you know?” unless you grew up with friends or family who raised VC money before, and we all know what that group looks like demographically. In fact, there is little written about some of the rules of conduct, so while you can read countless articles about SAFE vs convertible notes, how are you supposed to figure out what to put LLC next to your company name in one field it pretty much kills your fundraising.
Some people might be reading this like, “What? But that’s my company name!”
Yes, yes it is…but this is also the initial equivalent of putting “MBA” after your last name on a business card. Now, why do we think some undergraduate degrees deserve professional exposure and others don’t? I don’t know, but if you’re in any area of the professional world, you can see that it’s not something MBAs do. Doing so is just a little “off”.
With LLCs, you get two strikes. One is that if you want venture capital funding, you will convert your LCC to a C-corp. VCs don’t want your income rolling over to their fund for tax purposes. So you’re throwing something that’s going down the road.
Second, a presentation is a branding exercise. You are marketing your company. Do you see that Apple markets its iPhones as manufactured by “Apple, Inc.”? No, it’s just Apple. Do not put the full legal name in the marketing.
There, now there’s one less way for me to look like a n00b. There will be others, such as not asking a VC to sign an NDA. This is at least one that you can search a lot of places to find out why, but you might not come across it before the first time you launch.
I try to lower the barriers to launch and get your shake just right, without the need for warm intros, for example. You definitely don’t need to know all the traditional startup stuff ahead of time when pitching me (as long as you’re in NYC), but I’ll still say it’s in your best interest to see how people pitch. first and talk to as many experienced founders as you can. Founders are generally very helpful to other founders. Using what you have to other people in your industry working on non-competitive projects can be very helpful.
That’s partly why I do my #notapitch series: to try and execute an idea before it ever counts as anything close to an actual pitch. Give me a couple of minutes about what you’re working on and I’ll give you some directional feedback.
And if you don’t have those connections, there are plenty of conferences and pitch events in startup cities that can give you access. In fact, if you’re a true startup and find a startup conference near you that you’d like to attend, consider contacting that conference to work with them on organizing an event or track for the first ones. To be honest, having some sort of background on fundraising or being a founder before such a conference works for both parties. It will make the experience better for new people, but also for pros who don’t get much out of being hit with what should be better-practiced pitches.
Startup n00bs, if you’re serious about taking your business to new heights, you must make sure that you look like an established entrepreneur. As an investor and founder of Ikaroa, I’d like to share some advice on how to avoid the rookie mistakes that often hold businesses back.
Firstly, it’s important to have a professional website and business branding. An investor-quality website should have a strong brand, clean and trustworthy design, clear messaging, and an effective call-to-action. Investing in a professional designer or digital marketing agency can make all the difference.
Secondly, it’s important for start-up n00bs to develop a solid business plan. Crafting an accurate market analysis, competitive research, and financial projections are just some of the areas important for success. This will give the impression that you’re serious about growing your business and make it more attractive to potential investors.
Thirdly, make sure you have a business network. Attending industry events and building relationships with key players in your market are critical for success. By building a strong network, you’ll gain invaluable advice on how to grow your venture and make key contacts who can help you take it to the next level.
Finally, stay focused on the cutting-edge of your industry. To really make your venture stand out, you must be able to provide a unique solution or idea relevant to your target market. Utilizing the right data analytics, customer intelligence, and technological solutions can help you to identify trends and make smart decisions to keep you ahead of the competition.
At Ikaroa, we understand that starting a business can be daunting. By following the tips above, you can boost your chances of success and building a successful venture. Having a professional appearance and sound business plan are essential for creating a competitive advantage and making it easier to gain bank and investor funding.