Advisors, don’t project your fears! Advice for pre-seed founders
When we are in doubt, we reach out to people. We seek help and provide support, but sometimes we are putting biases in other people’s minds. Qualified advice is what we should seek. Many people are experts in their field, yet how they provide their technical advice may influence how we react.
Recently I have been working as an advisor in some early-stage start-ups, and the main struggle that I find in qualified founders is trust. Will this work? Do I trust in myself? My team? Creating a start-up is a considerable risk and most likely fail, but a piece of core advice I give is how to de-risk it. What are the steps for it to be less risky? What are the goals I must accomplish to feel confident with the level of risk I am taking?
Use the following ideas before you burn out; it helped the people I work with and me.
Advice 1: Measure the risks, but don’t let people tell you what you can or cannot do without analysing the risks involved first. Don’t let them project their fears in you. This advice may seem easy to do, but our minds work on a subconscious level.
I remember reading a quote on a VC website — as kids, we are told we can do everything we want, but life shows us what we can achieve and cannot. Only we set the boundaries of what we can achieve or not, but context plays a huge role. I had people who tried to play me down because I didn’t fit the mole, and many have endured the same situation. A teacher who thought I didn’t have enough skills to finish my degree in economics, a former boss who told me I would never go into business school, or a prospective investor who told me to work somewhere else first. Listen cautiously. Certainly, track your time, track your goals, decide how comfortable you feel with the level of risk involved, and your ability (money) to handle the risks. Early KPIs will help you advance faster.
In the seek for validation or self-confidence, we may hear advice from multiple people. We find the smart ones. And depending on their level of self-awareness, they may be providing their biases towards you.
Advice 2: Talk with the self-aware mentor. Usually, founders already have a solution to a problem, but we are afraid to take it. Accordingly, to the degree of self-awareness of your advisor, they will say, “you should do this”; the second stage, “In my opinion, you should do this”; and the third stage, “what are your thoughts in solving this, this way?” Nobody is the owner of the truth.
If your advisor doesn’t have that much time and only shares their recipe for success, be aware that what works for them won’t necessarily work again. Luck or randomness, in a particular moment, plays a considerable role.
I recommend a more rational approach: map out the risks and the potential solutions. Talk with self-aware people. And don’t be afraid of listening to your voice. Most of the time, we already know to act.