Written and submitted by Firestorm.
I’m in the market for a job – that’s pretty obvious by the previous articles that I’ve penned to vent my frustration, anger and general emo-ness for the past six months. The past two months (November-December 2018), I’ve had three interviews with startup founders. Frankly: They all suck.
I can HEAR the rest of the startup founders grabbing their torches and pitchforks and beginning a meeting to plan the commencement of a lynch mob with just my title. I’m going to GIVE them a reason to come after with said torches and pitchforks in a paragraph or two. But before I get to that, let’s talk about spotting the generic Malaysian wannabe startup founder.
It is my theory that most of these individuals are spawned by some bizarre binary-fission like process. In appearance, these individuals can range from ultra-slick hair and tailored suits to oversized hoodies with tattoos coming out their short-sleeved shirts. They can generally be found stalking, in a hunter-gatherer sense of the term the plush carpets of Cradle CIP Roadshows, MaGIC herd events, and various forms of industry focused events from Construction to I.T. to Real Estate.
Their weapon of choice is a pitch-deck that does not have a business model, or a half decent product. They egregiously throw out terms like “Blockchain,” “Artificial Intelligence,” and “Graphical User Interface Design” and other jingoistic jargon to confound their targeted investor/committee/individual in to submission.
The funny part for me is when they try this crap on someone who KNOWS the difference between Cloud Computing, iCloud, GUI, UI, and UX. And while I sort of stand there, gritting my teeth with what I hope is a polite smile and attempts to wave them away. Out of all three that I had an interview with, they all claimed something along these lines:
- They have the next billion-dollar idea!
- They have a potential market of millions of people!
- They have the courage to take the risk necessary to be a winner!
- They have a vision, a mission, (in one case a “God-Given!”) a purpose that deserves to be funded!
- They have a valuable idea because once they get funding, they can hire, and market and scale to go nationwide within months (Two claimed they could scale to GLOBAL within months)!
- They have all read something (or several somethings, by famous individuals), and as a result, can and will replicate the success of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Bruce Wayne and Christian Grey.
In short: Hubris. The vast majority of start-up founders don’t have anything. They don’t have a skill set to market, they definitely don’t have a prototype product, so what are they actually doing? I have no idea. How they got off the ground? I have no idea either.
During the interview, when it came for me to ask a few questions at the end, I asked. These guys ALL folded like a house of cheap cards. I just asked these questions and their generic answers are listed below:
- What marketplace need is the company going to help fulfill? How does the product or service actually give value to the end customers?
- The answer was invariably a variant of “everyone is going to need/love/use or product/service!” Nope. This just means that they don’t know their target market.
- What is the hypothetical/ideal target customer base, who will be into the product or service?
- Refer to Above.
- What is the background of the rest of the leadership/management team? What are the skillsets of your colleagues, coworkers and the interns? If there are knowledge and/or sill gaps, are they hiring to fill those in?
- The answers here were particularly damning. One guy, wanted to do a tech startup and had great ideas. But this guy was looking for marketers and business development with NO PROGRAMMERS on board. Oh, the founder in question cannot code either.
- Where are they getting their funding from and how do they plan to continue getting funding to keep operations going over the next 12-24 months?
- A certain level of uncertainty is understandable here. But the silence I got was chilling. It was clear they had put all their eggs in to one basket, and were hoping to get the “Angel Investor.”
In short: The answers were all short, vague and very imprecise, lacking in both detail and substance. Suffice to say that whoever is funding, investing or giving out grants, they are going to be on the losing end of said investment in pretty short order.