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Are we here to talk about your company or your pitch?

I had one of those sudden insights.

You know the type. It's evident in retrospect,  takes only a moment to go “Aha,” and it only took me two decades of missing it.

Imagine if I had evaluated the ping-pong playing ability of 3,500 students by having them write essays on historical figures. Doing this without even hinting at the evaluation criteria. I bet that twenty years later, armed with 20/20 hindsight, it wouldn't seem like it had been that good an idea.

Last night I was at an “idea review” for early-stage companies. Generally, they are 18-24 months away from being ready to talk to investors.

They are given a few minutes to present a deck based on a standard template.

As a panel member, I am instructed to focus on (1) the viability of their core idea and (2) the thoroughness of their research.

The deck template has everything needed for a typical investor presentation; less than half of that is related to their core idea and the thoroughness of their research.

In prep, people focus on each of the areas on those slides. They are a year or more too early for half of them.

So, I am changing the way I begin my . For years I have started with, “How can I be most helpful?”

Starting today, instead, I will ask, “Are we here to talk about your company or about your presentation?”

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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