When you are out raising money, you run into startups that make you wonder:
How did they get money for that idea?
Remember that all startups, even yours and mine are grand, high risk experiments. There’s so much risk. So many things that can go wrong that have nothing to do with the idea. Running a company isn’t easy. Raising money is harder than it looks. Hiring people isn’t easy. Building a product is really hard. Doing all of the above is ridiculously difficult. It’s no surprise that most startups fail. (Here’s a great article on why startups do fail.)
If you are a founder, when you are confronted with an awful startup, be positive. Even if you don’t think someone’s startup has a snowball’s chance, find a way to be positive about that startup, especially publicly. If you don’t like the founders, compliment the idea or their product. If you hate the product, compliment the founders. If you don’t like the product, founders or idea, compliment the market. Oooh. That’s a huge market.
Sometimes you have to bite your tongue, but there’s a very big payoff: you don’t unintentionally burn bridges. You never know when another founder may be able to help you out – or even come to work for you when the inevitable happens to their bad startup. I’ve seen so many cases where a founder trashes another startup at a pitch night, meetup or even in front of investors. Word gets around and sometimes has devastating consequences for the other founder. The kind of consequences that drive people to find a reason to pay you back. Do you really want other founders telling their advisors, investors and employees how awful you are?
The only time that being negative is appropriate is if you are being asked about doing business with that startup or investing in that startup. Then a simple, “I would not,” will suffice. You don’t have to bus roll anyone, or even provide the gory details. You can just speak with integrity, and move on… without burning any bridges.