At Dubb, we are granted many chances to attend top-notch tech conferences. At these conferences, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, and members of the media gathered together to discuss the latest startups that are trying to change the world.
Recently, we attended the Venture Summit West conference in Silicon Valley. The theme of this year’s conference, held from March 6 through 7, was “where innovation meets capital.” Throughout the two-day conferences, entrepreneurs shared the dreams and visions for their companies. Investors listened intently, gauging whether these entrepreneurs are going to build the next big thing.
But beyond the actual pitches, the conference was a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors to connect and exchange ideas. At the same time, we took the opportunity to ask those A-list investors about common mistakes that entrepreneurs make (and behaviors and traits that entrepreneurs should embrace).
Knowledge From the Investors
One of the most common themes that we heard from investors is that unsuccessful entrepreneurs don’t find product-market fit.
Magdi Amin from the Omidyar Network agreed, stating that one fatal flaw for is the lack of deep synergy between product and market. In their quest for product-market fit, some entrepreneurs can fall into the trap of finding false positives. For example, Wenz Xing from Bullpen Capital argued that there is some inherent danger in spending money on Facebook and Instagram ads. Sure, you can leverage Facebook’s powerful targeting technology, but you need to ensure that the users you targeted are actually sticking around and using your product. If you aren’t finding those quality users, you are wasting valuable time and dollars, which Jun Deng from Joyance Partners says is the last thing that you should be doing. Ultimately, according to Greg Bohlen of Union Grove Venture Partners, not being focused on your customers or clients (and their needs) can lead you down some troubling roads.
Associated with this lack of product-market fit, a slow feedback loop can be the death knell for any startup. Jocelyn Goldfein of Zetta Venture Partners says that the key to growth is the tightest possible feedback loop. You can try anything and everything, but it must be within a short feedback loop that allows you to double down on the things that are working. If it takes you a significant amount of time to gather data and act on that data, you are placing yourself at a major disadvantage.
Other investors said that lack of character can scuttle any startup. Sheeraz Haji of Zipdragon Ventures says that one of the worst things you can do is say something to an investor which later turns out to not be true. In his words, this can be a “deal killer.” Honesty is a critical trait—not only for you as the founder but for your entire team. You can be greedy and try to get as much market share as possible, but there’s no need, according to Henry Wong of Garage Technology Ventures, to state you’re going to get 100 percent market share.
While we spent a good amount of time talking to investors about what entrepreneurs should not do, we also wanted to focus on what they should do. The investors, once again, were happy to share their thoughts. Persistence is an absolutely valuable trait, as there will inevitably be ups and downs on your entrepreneurial journey. The best combination within a startup, according to Amin, is great people who are passionate and highly committed to working on a particular mission. Last (but not least), it is critical to know the best uses of your time. Sometimes, it is better to keep your head down and continue working on your product than attend conferences. If you do attend a conference like Venture Summit West, make sure that you are using your time effectively, whether that is pitching your product or building genuine relationships with investors at the conference.
A Stellar Experience
The Venture Summit West conference was a terrific opportunity to hear from game-changing entrepreneurs and investors. Whether you are a first-time founder or have been an entrepreneur for some time, we hope you take these investors’ advice as you are building your company. By doing so, you will be much less likely to fall into common traps and more likely to build the next great brand.