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Photo by Ana Frantz on Unsplash

Entrepreneurial Elephant Exam

Steve Goldberg is a partner at Finistere Ventures, an early-stage venture fund focused on food, , and sustainably feeding the world. I am surprised, but not embarrassed to say that I learned something new from almost every sentence he spoke.

I was amazed to learn just how broad is. From supply chain to web restaurant ordering. From plant-based proteins to computer-controlled farm equipment.

I bought my friend an elephant for his room…

Steve shared his favorite first question for . He asks about the “Elephant in the room.”

For most companies, it is the huge, well-known, entrenched competitor. For others, it may be a regulatory issue. Or difficulties with adoption.

He said, “Thanks.”

I said, “Don't mention it.”

He can tell a lot by how the founders respond. Do they try to pretend the elephant doesn't exist? Are they honestly unaware of it?

Or do they actually have a well-thought-out plan?

After all, if there wasn't something difficult, someone else would have already built this company before you got there.

I often ask, in the same spirit, “Why will you succeed where so many others have failed?”

Having good answers may not get you funded or ensure your success,

white and black skull on white concrete wall
Photo by <a href=httpsunsplashcomamaituutm source=wordpress instant images7C7Ctaxopressamp7C7Cutm medium=referralutm source=wordpress instant images7C7Ctaxopressamp7C7Cutm medium=referral>Steve Barker<a> on <a href=httpsunsplashcomutm source=wordpress instant images7C7Ctaxopressamp7C7Cutm medium=referral>Unsplash<a>

but not having good answers, or worse yet, not having thought about the questions is likely to lead to a sad outcome.

Do elephants cry?

How would you and your team answer questions like these?

I am deeply saddened but no longer surprised how often founders are not prepared for such questions. Still, it is much better that this happens in practice than at a live event or a meeting with an investor.

Mentors, are you asking your startups questions like these? What other questions do you include as “like these?”

Written by Russell Brand

Entrepreneur in residence at Founder Institute, he has mentored, performed due diligence on and invested in numerous early stage companies. Hundreds of these early stage companies have described Russell’s insights and advice as the most useful thing in the history of their companies. He has always had an inborn ability to find more valuable uses of new ideas and faster ways to achieve results.

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