Monday, May 12, 2008

Last Call in Calgary, and Founders' Error

Contrary to last week's post, there is one more audition for Dragons' Den. Aspiring Alberta entrepreneurs will be pleased to know the CBC TV show is returning to Calgary on May 16 for one more day of pitching.

If you want to face the Dragons, head to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce's historic headquarters at 100 6th Avenue SW (4th Floor), from 11 AM to 4 PM. (Seems that the CBC producers' trip to Calgary last month coincided with the Great April Blizzard, so they're back to give you one more chance.
For more info on registering or auditioning online, click here.

Last Saturday (May 10) I played "deputy dragon" again at the Toronto auditions. It was a high-energy day with lots of great pitches. If I don't find time to blog about it in full, here's one thought: more entrepreneurs need to be more aware of where they add value.

One question I asked the pitchers quite often on Saturday was: "Why are you the right person to make this business succeed?" Or, "Why should the Dragons want to work with you?"

Ironically, the only person to answer this well was a former civil servant now promoting medical tourism. He was was able to concisely describe his background, his vision, and how both help create significant competitive advantages.

Most of the pitchers who answered this question committed the classic "Founders' Error": they assumed that starting the business gives them some innate edge in running it successfully. Many people answered my question by saying they have the "vision." They are hard workers; they have the desire.

Of course, all of these are definite assets, good things to have on your team. But none of them are as important as industry knowledge, management experience, a track record of achievement and execution, or experience working successfully with investors. This is what Dragons and angels and other venture investors are looking for. Your love for your idea is a minor plus, but it is not a competitive advantage. In some cases, if you're the type of person who falls in love with your own ideas, it can even be a disadvantage.

Step back from your business. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Understand where you are adding the most value. Make sure you know how to explain what your unique abilities are. And let us know how you are addressing your weak points.

Entrepreneurial passion is not enough. If you can objectively assess your tangible contributions to the business, the more chance you have of a) landing outside investment, and b) succeeding in your marketplace.

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