Who has time for meetings?

A lot of entrepreneurs assume that the initial way to engage with an investor is to *insist* on a meeting. It’s a relatively safe assumption that anyone on the buy side (an investor, an advertiser, an executive at a large company) receives far more requests for meetings than they can follow up on, and are constantly looking for excuses to say “no.”

Synchronous activities, such as phone calls, screencasts, videos, and webex conferences are almost as bad. If you’re trying to get the attention of an investor or exec at a major company, and don’t want to waste either your time or their time, pay very, very close attention to the cost of their time and you’ll fare better. In order of escalation, one should proceed as follows:

- Introduction – have your introducer send them an email *without putting you in the to or cc line.* That way, if the target does not wish to engage, you haven’t put them in the awkward position of having to supply an excuse or a turndown. The introducer protects their ability to be taken seriously this way.

- Once you have a response / interest, send something written for them to look over and offer a phone call, webex, or meeting as next steps. Written always beats a video or screencast, since most intelligent people can read a lot faster than they can listen. A webex demo is a crutch – if your product has to be explained, it probably isn’t ready for the average consumer. And if it’s in beta, you should at least know how to open up a password-protected demo version.

- If the target displays interest in learning more, then you can move to a call or in-person meeting.

People who insist on a webex demo or in-person meeting at the outset are forcing the target to make a high-cost decision, and are subtly signaling that they don’t value their own time, and certainly don’t value the targets’ time. They might think that they are demonstrating persistence, but one wants to see persistence in chasing the product, not in chasing dead-ends.

In short, your high-value targets don’t have time for meetings between un-screened parties, and since you’re busy building a company, you shouldn’t have time for them either.

Venture Hacks Meetup and Panel at SXSW

For those of you going to SXSW, I’ll be on the Seed Combinators Panel on Monday March 15 3:30pm. I’m joining Paul GrahamDavid CohenMarc Nathan, and Joshua Baer to talk about YStars, TechCombinators, SeedBoxes, and the like. Here’s the Plancast if you want me to “count you in.”

I’m also throwing a meetup on SundayMarch 14 5-7pm in the Four Seasons Lobby Lounge at 98 San Jacinto Blvd.

If you’re a Venture Hacker, please come talk to me about your startup and venture hacking at these two events. I’m looking forward to pressing the flesh and kissing some babies.

Please RSVP on Facebook xor Plancast so we can get a headcount. Gracias.

The iPad is imPortant

Perhaps not in this incarnation – remember the first iPod? But the concept is very, very important for two reasons:

- It’s the first computing device that’s social in the real world. The iPhone is something that one person uses at a time. The Laptop screen faces you – two people using it at one time is awkward. iPad style devices can be shared in the real world – imagine laying it flat and playing multiplayer games facing each other, or watching a movie together, or even showing someone a web page – far easier than on any other device.

- It runs the iPhone OS. Why do users need to know what a file system is? Or map the interactions of a moving block of plastic onto a screen (mice)? Or worry about memory management? Or multiple levels of trash-delete? Or the concept of multiple, mounted volumes? Or which network you’re connected to?

Basically, the iPad is (a) usable by the other 5.5 Billion humans, and (b) it can enhance real, physical human interactions. These two facts alone make it a worthy successor to the iPod and iPhone. Steve isn’t ready to start filling niche markets just yet. He’s still looking to rule the world.

Y Combinator vs. Graduate School

Y Combinator* is the new Graduate School.

In some ways, it’s better:

- You pay to go to graduate school. YC pays you.
- After school, you get a job. After YC, you create jobs.
- You repeat the works of the greats in school. YC expects you to do original work.
- In school, you are graded on an arbitrary scale by arbitrary people. After YC, you are graded by the real world.

Some day, most schools in most disciplines will be like this.

* – Of course, “Y Combinator” is a generic term for Techstars, I/O Ventures, SeedCamp, Capital Factory, Founders Institute, and all of the other similar pre-angel incubators.

Why You Need to be in Silicon Valley

For years I didn’t believe this. I thought that you could take advantage of the benefits of Boston, Seattle, NY, Austin – cheaper talent, no echo chamber, local Universities, etc.. But I give up. I found myself telling an entrepreneur why he had to be in Silicon Valley if he wanted to succeed. Most of my points are about Consumer Internet businesses…

I won’t belabor the obvious reasons – the Investors are here, the best engineers and entrepreneurs self-select and come here, Stanford and Berkeley, yadda yadda.

Instead, here are some points that you may not have considered:

- Especially on the Consumer Internet, modern businesses are becoming winner-take-all (thanks to leverage and network effects). Therefore, if you’re 10% better than the competition, you win, likely the whole market. You need every possible edge…

- All of the companies that you need to partner with are out here. Business development doesn’t happen in formal meetings. It happens in informal coffees, parties, and relationships.

- If you are here, your network will be using all of the latest tools – Twitter, Foursquare, Quora, Nexus One, etc., before other networks in other cities will. These networks hit critical mass here earlier and are thus more valuable to the early adopters here. You’ll have a 3-month+ head start on people outside to see what’s coming next. Imagine trying to design next year’s clothing without firsthand immersion in this year’s fashion, in Milan or Paris.

Sure, it’s possible to build a great Consumer Internet business starting out somewhere else, but given that these are winner-take-all businesses, do you want to start out that far behind the curve?