Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Survive & Thrive – What We Learned at this Innovative Retreat

Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth. 
Mike Tyson

The real lesson of this imaginative retreat, Survive and Thrive last weekend at Club Getaway in Kent, CT is that if you want to thrive – showing that you can survive is the real challenge.

This is what investors look for and this is what speakers like Jesse Itzkey (co-founder of Marquis Jets and the guy who got to marry Spanks Sarah Blakely), Kevin Harrington (former Infomercial King who had to reinvent himself in the post TV world) and and author Susie Carter (a millionaire former hairdresser) had to say.

Sometimes this is about changing your idea precisely because you got knocked out of the ring! When that happens – whatever you were left with after the KO, whatever looked it was working, is what really matters. This is truly how most entrepreneurs realized they were really Entrepreneurs and went on to make millions.

That is also what we tried to do at the Pitch Contest finale on Sunday and what my company, Startupalooza does every months in major cities in the northeast – with our pitching contests and workshops. The winner, NY-based Bellhop – a ridehailing aggregator along the lines of Kayak, truly came through it all

This imaginative first-time Retreat combined, upbeat conferences, group challenges, super networking, great dining and fun partying. It was like a cruise ship on land for cool people who own the future but still know how to dance and make karaoke come alive!

Most interesting was just how diverse and international the Entrepreneurs, mentors and Investors were.

Turning a No to Yes: Winning over Investors After First Punch.

While there were a lot of winners, there were others who have work to do. Thats normal - there are very few startups that are ready for investors out of the gate.

There are many great lessons to be learned: The first is to find out if the investors even look at your segment, if not, give them a very brief idea and ask for a referral. They usually will, even if it is to get you off their backs.

It they are interested in your segment and the answer is no, or the dangling maybe keep in mind that you can always go back to them but only if you have news, such as:

1.     You listened to what they said, and implementing it has improved the company this way.
2.     You have more buy-in: customers, revenue, new investors.
3.     You have pivoted – and it seems to be working. What do you think?

Your True Idea: Its Not the Punch – Its How You Get Up
Most Entrepreneurs and Investors have taken a hit, and its usually a KO. So getting the punch is normal - its what you do after it.

If you are a real entrepreneur, its where you find your true idea, your true market or just your real hook for Investors. It is so important that Investors will hit you with it just to find out if you have stress-tested the idea and whether you have a Plan B and C, just in case your assumptions go wrong, the market implodes, or real customers just dont love you like you say.

This helps you find your true role. So who are you – seller, technician, visionary? When you know that, you know who to partner with or hire to fill the gap. Maybe you dont like to sell then find the partner who can – though engineers who do the best they can often get a lot of credit for trying. If youre not a programmer show that you know enough to manage and even fix if the site crashes or upgrades need to be done in a hurry.

This challenge also helps you find your true market value – working companies have comparables (similar funding companies) - ideas and possibilities are whatever Investors feel is fair and thats usually low.

B Students Rule
Most of our successful entrepreneurs and speakers were not great students or often not even college grads, they were great doers who wound up hiring the experts. That doesnt mean you shouldnt have an MBA – it just means that degrees don't start businesses, scrappy risk takers do. So what ever it is that you do you have to know that you can jump overboard with it and stay afloat and still get to shore.

Alan Brody is the founder of Startupalooza, a seed investor and author of Are You Fundable?

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