Experience mining

In the earliest phases of starting a company, first-time founders are often told to meet with 100 people before raising money.

There are three primary reasons for meeting 100 people:

  1. Building relationships.
  2. Covering your blind spots by looking at your company from as many different angles as possible.
  3. Creating a narrative that’s rock-solid for fundraising.

The process is self-fulfilling. Each time you meet with someone interesting they typically become invested in your success. You can often tell because they’ll introduce you to one or two other people worth speaking to.

As a founder, this process is immensely valuable if you’re consistently meeting with high quality people and asking the right questions. These people can be potential users, investors, or partners for the business you intend on building.

Innovation markets are efficient. It’s unlikely that you’re the first one to attempt a solution. Find the people who’ve already taken a shot at building something and learn as much as possible from their lessons. Take everything they say with a grain of salt and don’t let their cynicism effect your enthusiasm.

Here’s the best resource I’ve ever found on evaluating startup ideas.

What happens after you meet 100 people?

You form a narrative that’s something along the lines of:

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

Pixar’s rules of story telling

Here’s the 3-part narrative to fundraising, adapted to startups:

The world is a certain way—Here you outline your background and the current state of the market: How you were introduced to the problem, why you are an expert, and the order of magnitude of the problem today (it should be big!).

Something changes—This is your solution to the problem. As well as why you are the right person and why now is the ideal time to solve it.

The world is now different— Now explain how your solution changed the world: think product traction (metrics / milestone-focused traction). The remaining opportunity, or, why your traction will continue an increase exponentially.

Justin Kan, Creating Your Startup’s Narrative and Pitch

This narrative becomes the story you tell investors, potential recruits, and journalists as you build your company.

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