Friday, January 12, 2007


It’s been a while since I’ve been on the dating scene, or looked for a new job, so it’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with rejection.

But starting a new business is bringing that all back. In spades. On any given day, my Julep glass looks either 1 acceptance full or 99 rejections empty (dependant on my outlook, which is sometimes dependent on my wine consumption).

For example, over the past four months, I’ve been on in-person “first dates” with 38 potential investors. Here’s the want ad I should run:

“Exciting SRS (Single Retail Start-up), seeking multiple intelligent, forward-looking, and patient Accredited Investors to engage in highly rewarding long-term relationship.”

Beyond the standard “people are investing in the individual(s), not the idea,” here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1) Start-up investments come from disposable cash. This is a pretty simple principle, but I’ve never been part of this world before, so I had no idea. It turns out that even very wealthy people will not up and sell their investments in another asset to invest in your start-up, despite the obvious brilliance of your business plan (hypothetically speaking). If a prospective investor is remodeling a house, has just lost a job, or is embroiled in a messy divorce, start looking elsewhere.

2) I think all of my investors are “J”s in the Myers-Briggs world (“Judging” versus “Perceiving” – more orderly and decisive versus amorphous and open-ended). And most of them are “E”s (“Extraverts,” versus “Introverts”). I don’t think I have a single “P” investor, except for my husband (who arguably did not have full freedom of choice in his investment).

3) I think men and women “close the deal” differently. This was the hardest part for me, so I tended to avoid it. Looking back at my conversations, most of my investors had to take the lead and ask me, “So are you looking for investors?” (I think one investor actually said, “So what’s going on here, Jane? Are you really hitting me up for money?”). I was happy to just talk and talk and talk about my ideas for Julep. But, for the most part, my NPR strategy of “the sooner you pay, the sooner we’ll shut up and let you get back to regular programming” has served me well enough. . . (Oprah moment warning) I think the most important thing is to know who you are, especially when in uncomfortable situations.

4) Most people are busy – both interested and uninterested people alike. So it’s hard to distinguish between an interested busy person’s “call me later” – meaning “I’ve got Donald Trump on the other line and I’m selling him land,” and an uninterested busy person’s “call me later” – meaning “I don’t have enough time to think about this enough to get to my ‘no’”. My M.O. is to veer dramatically back and forth between manically calling every two minutes to intense self-flaggelation for over-bugging my friends.

Next week I’m presenting my business plan to a group of Seattle angel investors. I had a preparation call today that was really helpful. I went through my whole presentation, and the good news is that I got through all my material in just under 25 minutes. The bad news is that I’ve only got 10 minutes to present when I go in front of the broader group next Thursday. When was on the receiving side of new business “pitches,” I always thought that 10 minutes was more than adequate to figure out whether a further investment of my time was worth the while. But now that I’m the one “pitching,” the more than roomy 10 minutes seems to have shrunk into size 0 proportions.

So my business plan has some liquid only, crash dieting to do by then.