What Would You Do?

Posted on March 25, 2011

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“Bad taste is simply saying the truth before it should be said.” -Mel Brooks

I went to a venture capital conference recently. It was very nice. I saw some nice companies. Nothing that really interested me, but nice.

I sat down to a nice lunch. Across from a nice guy. There were a couple other nice chaps as well. Like at any of these lunches, a person at the table asks, “So, what do you do?” Enter the roadshow. The elevator pitches. The ‘you’. And the dance goes around the table.

So, the moment to shine comes to ‘the guy’ sitting across from me. And he tells us his business idea. And it’s pretty bad. Ok, it’s really bad. Like smelly poo bad. I won’t go into exact details other than to say, it was an alert system product that dealt with selling to local government agencies (read: super long sales cycle). It was mostly an ad-revenue based business though; based on events no company in their right mind would want to be associated with (think: ad space for euthanized kitten updates).

Even worse, from a business standpoint, these events, that he was hoping for, don’t actually happen a lot. See: 9.0 earthquakes & tsunamis crushing nuclear reactors. So on every level that’s bad, right? But wait there’s more! The guy’s idea is based on a platform of technology that’s going to be dead in the next 5 years, tops.

So I mean it’s just, Fcsked. With a capital ‘F’.

Now, as an entrepreneur & idea guy I know that most of my kernels aren’t going to pop. And because I am prolific with ideas, it doesn’t bother me. It’s my DNA. I accept its blessings & curses. Knowing this, I actually want people to tell me my weaknesses. How else do I improve or know which idea to pursue, or not?

At any rate, I take it upon lil ‘ole me, to helpfully suggest some issues with his model & some solutions, even some potential partnerships. I could see the others at the table squirm. They just wanted to smile & move on. It was awkward. Even more awkward is that he’d been at it for 2 years now–with admittedly “nothing to show for it.”-his words. He went on to admit that he was running out of money & his wife was getting scared. He’d plowed $250k of his life savings into this. He was trying to think about what to do next.

And I had to ask myself— how the heck am I the first person to tell him straight? How sad, that everyone spared his feelings rather than give him what he needed: the truth. They wanted to just smile & move on…

So, please– if I am doing something that’s a train wreck, tell me-I wanna know.

Don’t you agree?

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