Bad Startup Ideas – Presenting A False Front to Investors


The first time I ever tried to raise money was about four years ago. I paid $30 for an online list of 50 "investors" in my area. I called or emailed every one of them, only to realize that the list was worthless. It was just a list of wealthy individuals, not people willing to risk some of their money in a new venture. In retrospect I was stupid because my strategy was wrong from the beginning.

My goal was to find money. I really didn't care where it came from. When I had a potential investor, I tried to research that investor and tailor my pitch to them. It sounds smart, but it was really a bad idea. Why? Because nothing is worse than taking money for your business from someone that has a false idea about what they are getting into.

Finding investors is like getting married. If your goal is to con your significant other and hide your flaws, you may get hitched in the short term but eventually you will be exposed and your relationship will become unraveled. You are much better off to find a partner who accepts the real you. Likewise, you will be much better off finding an investor who likes your *real* idea, even after you strip away all the confirming market research, false schedules, and chinese math.

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It is tough to do. You want that money really badly. Sometimes you need it to keep going. But if you put up a false front to get it, you will pay the price in the long term.

The better approach is to find an investor who believes in your underlying vision. Don't waste your time spamming angels and VCs with business plans outside of their investment areas. Find someone that shares your core values and ideas. Start with a list of VC firms and figure out which ones are most likely to believe in what you are doing. If it is angels you are looking for, start networking locally and don't be shy to ask people if they know someone. Spend some time researching investors up front, and it will save you time and headache on the back end.

In one of my favorite movies, Sleepless in Seattle, Annie (Meg Ryan's character) breaks off her engagement, which her fiancee accepts by replying "marriage is hard enough without bringing such low expectations into it." New ventures are the same way. Starting off with a financial backer who thinks you and/or the project are actually something different is a recipe for failure.