Today I had a conversation with a founder and one person from his leadership team. He isn’t looking for funds. He presented at an event I participated in and we connected afterward. He’s built a product and a team and has paying customers. They’ve built a real business and are trying to figure out how to scale. The conversation was efficient. He wanted my thoughts in three specific areas. I gave them, sharing my experiences and opinions. I learned a lot about the company and the founder, and I’m now a bit invested in their success so I want to keep tabs on their progress.
I never raised money at CCAW, so I never thought to build relationships with investors. Looking back, I regret that. Investors evaluate so many companies that they have a valuable perspective. They can help you see around walls and think about things from a fifty-thousand-foot view. The years it took me to learn things the hard way could have been shortened drastically, which would have accelerated our success. I know now that investors aren’t just sources of capital.
After founders get some early traction, they should consider building relationships with investors regardless of whether they plan to raise capital. The knowledge that investors can provide can be game changing. Especially in the early days. Like founders, investors are busy, so be respectful of their time and do your homework before asking for a meeting. If you’ve made sufficient traction, most investors with experience in your space will be willing to give you their thoughts. Of course, some will decline, but remember . . . all it takes is one conversation with the right person to change your trajectory!