3 Counter-intuitive Customer Service Lessons Entrepreneurs Should Learn

3 Counter-intuitive Customer Service Lessons Entrepreneurs Should Learn

How a bad experience at a self-styled "luxury" Sydney hotel reminded me of the most important customer service lessons for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

At about 1 a.m. during a memorable trip I took to Australia, I awoke suddenly in a hot sweat in my hotel room at the Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay. Supposedly among that country’s leading hotels, the Intercontinental bills itself as “Sydney’s Exclusive Bayside retreat,” where guests stay in luxury.

According to the hotel’s website, air-conditioning is one of these luxuries.

But not on that particular night. In fact, the thermostat in my room was stuck at a stuffy 24 C. (75 F.) degrees. So, I turned the temperature down, but to no avail. When I called the front desk, I was informed that the air-conditioning in the hotel was “functionally off for the season.” Yikes.

Still, I was okay with that, assuming that I’d receive some form of compensation for my discomfort. After all, I was a loyal customer: I had spent over 30 nights in the hotel, in just the previous year alone. Boy, was I wrong.

Not only was I not offered compensation, but I was told I was “lucky” I wasn’t penalized for leaving the hotel early.

The lesson here? Whether you’re talking about your local post office, a rental car agency, hotel or of course an airline, you’re bound to have a customer service horror story. Don’t we all? So pervasive is poor customer service that an entire startup’s business model is devoted to getting even with airlines.

For entrepreneurs and business owners, a reputation for poor customer service can cause not only reputational damage, it can actually be fatal. According to NewVoiceMedia, U.S. companies lose $62 billion in revenue every year for customer service missteps and mistakes. And yet, most of these issues are avoidable if handled properly by management at the point of infraction.

Here’s how, as a business owner, you can turn customer service blunders into success stories.

Address the root issue immediately. Don’t make it about something else.

At the Sydney hotel, I was looking for compensation for a non-functional room. Instead of compensating, management doubled down and made the issue about how it had handled things rather than going after the root cause.

Poor reactions like that to customer complaints abound. When that happens, management’s reaction to a product or service deficiency becomes more the issue than the root cause itself. Look no further than the United Airlines passenger-dragging incident of Dr. David Dao in April 2017 to get just a taste of this.

As a business owner, you must immediately address the root problem involved and seek to avoid larger systemic implications of management style and discretion. A good way to do this is to follow the process outlined in Training magazine which suggests the following steps: 1. Stay calm; 2. Listen and communicate to the customer that you are doing so; 3. Acknowledge that a problem exists; 4. Clarify the facts of the matter; and most importantly, 5. Immediately offer a solution.

Know the long-term value (LTV) of your customers, and reward accordingly.

As already mentioned, I had stayed at that Sydney hotel more than 30 nights in the previous year without incident. As a customer, my long-term value (LTV), therefore, was extremely high, as I was more than likely to visit the hotel again.

Defined as the estimated revenue a customer may generate over his or her lifetime at any one business, long-term value (LTV) should play a significant role in how customer service missteps are corrected. If a loyal customer complains, smart entrepreneurs and business owners will pay particular attention to making it right; they know that whatever the cost to correct the situation right now, they will be paid off over the long term by a happy returning customer.

So, if you’re the business owner, when a complaint arises, attempt to immediately understand the customer’s LTV through previous or projected business, and craft a response and resolution accordingly.

A good example of this in practice is to examine how casinos owners treat their highest value customers or so-called “whales.” Casino management goes out of its way to satisfy the whims of these customers and correct the smallest of imperfections for them if something goes awry. This is because the casinos know their investment will be paid off many times over with a customer who is not only bound to come back, but also to refer others who similarly are big spenders.

Nearly every other business category should follow this logic.

The customer is not always right. But offer to make it right anyway.

A time-tested and oft-cited adage of customer service is: “the customer is always right.” Well, I hate to break it to everyone, but this is not always the case.

In fact, the customer may often be wrong, as no one person can be expected to understand the nuances and specifics of any business where he or she is merely a patron. And, for business owners and entrepreneurs, this presents a conundrum: How do you handle a customer who may be incorrect in their complaint?

For guidance, we might turn to Southwest Airlines, a legend in its industry for customer service and loyalty. Southwest’s policy is that the customer may not always be right but front-line employees should always be in a position to make it right. For example, when a customer was late to the airport and just barely missed a flight to meet his daughter, Southwest chartered a plane to ensure the customer made it to his final destination. Although the issue was not its fault, Southwest went above and beyond to make things right.

Similarly, as the founder of an advertising technology company, I used to offer free extras all the time to customers who, because they did not specify targeting or budgeting at the start of a project, were unhappy with their results. Even though the problems that resulted were not my fault, it was my responsibility to make it right.

For a lot of small business owners and entrepreneurs, making something right that was not your fault may sting, both ethically and financially. Yet, making it right can pay enormous dividends down the road, as customers will recognize the lengths you went to do the right thing and will reward you with their never-ending loyalty.

Saving time and money

Ultimately, by quickly focusing on and solving customer service missteps, small business owners and entrepreneurs can come out on the positive side of the opportunity-cost equation and focus their valuable time on scaling their business rather than becoming embroiled in side issues. The easiest ways to do this are: addressing root issues and not making it about management, understanding a customer’s LTV and offering to make things right regardless of who was at fault.

Although I probably won’t be going back to that Sydney hotel any time soon, the above points demonstrate how as a business owner you can keep and engage your own loyal customers for a very long time.


Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com:
3 Counter-intuitive Customer Service Lessons Entrepreneurs Should Learn

How a bad experience at a self-styled “luxury” Sydney hotel reminded me of the most important customer service lessons for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Source: Entrepreneur.com By Alex Gold


How to Raise Money Even When You Don't Have 'Traction'

How to Raise Money Even When You Don't Have 'Traction'

Early-stage entrepreneurs need marketplace traction to raise capital. And capital to generate traction. Here’s how to get out of this frustrating cycle.

It was an unusually sunny early spring afternoon in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. I was meeting with the founders of a new company, fresh out of Y Combinator’s latest cohort, and they were pitching me on investing in and advising their business. They were excited and pumped for the future.

“We are creating a marketplace for mineral rights and options,” they told me. This marketplace they envisioned? It would enable landowners to sell the rights to mine for minerals or even oil on their property to prospectors and others.

“Stuck in a pen and paper dynamic, this market is worth at least $50 billion,” one of the eager young founders said. “The standard to get to traction — at scale — is extremely low.”

Sitting on the other side of the table and seeking to provide some advice to these entrepreneurs, I was struck by one fact: Their business had no traction or growth. And I responded accordingly: “You don’t have any real traction yet do you?” I commented.

“No, not really,” the founder replied. “But we do have a massive market opportunity, incredibly strong tailwinds and the team to execute.”

He had a point: These founders may have fallen into the “traction trap” in investor pitches, yet they had not only survived but thrived.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many other founders.

One of the most common reasons why investors say “no” to early-stage entrepreneurs is that they lack traction or growth as evidence that consumers want their product. This is often  frustrating for entrepreneurs as it presents them with a “Catch 22” situation.

Obviously, they need traction to raise capital. In turn, they also need capital to generate growth. For an early-stage company that’s resource-starved, this kind of squeeze can quickly precipitate a death spiral as a founder’s time and attention gets directed toward investor meetings that are not yielding results: What the founder really should be doing is working on growing the product.

Still, there’s a silver lining here in the form of two strategic tactics that can massively shift the conversation more in the entrepreneurs’ direction. First, entrepreneurs can focus on the total addressable market (TAM) to set the stage for the growth of their business.

Second, entrepreneurs can focus on storytelling methodologies and tools to tell their unique story better, tug on investor heartstrings and close the deal — at least at this very early stage.

Third, entrepreneurs can draw analogies to other successful startups

Focus on the total addressable market (TAM).

Entrepreneurs raising capital without traction, need to tell a story that illustrates how their total addressable market (TAM) is so attractive and ripe for disruption that future consumer adoption will be readily achieved.

In short, we can define TAM as the total revenue opportunity that is available to your company and/or product in the market today. This is often a critical component of many pitch decks, and investors look to it as a key determinant as to whether the potential to create a massively scalable business exists in an entrepreneur’s category or vertical.

For venture capitalists, the ideal TAM should be sizable enough to grow a $100 million revenue business but not so big that the space is too crowded and any given entrepreneur may get “lost” in a “red ocean” of competitiveness.

Where TAM is particularly challenging to consider are trillion dollar markets like health care or markets in the hundreds of billions of dollars, like advertising.

Where the overall TAM of their space is very large, founders should emphasize and estimate the TAM for their specific sub-vertical or sub-category.

For example, building a marketing technology company in the United States presents the opportunity to take part in the $129 billion a year digital advertising market. On first glance, this kind of size seems too big for a newcomer to make a difference What’s more, it’s crowded with thousands of new entrants every year, and looks extremely challenging to pitch.

Yet, founders can estimate the TAM for their sub-category or sub-vertical (i.e. the TAM for CRM or the TAM for display advertising) rather than the overall market size to bring the size down to a more ideal TAM and significantly cut down the number of competitors.

Focus on your most powerful sales tool: storytelling.

Yet another tactic is for founders to focus on storytelling tactics to make their startup even more attractive. This can be particularly fruitful since humans are predisposed to focus on the power and possibilities of great stories.

This is good news for early-stage startups without traction since story is usually the only thing left to focus on. By focusing on the origins and eventual destination of their startup, founders can actually make their business more attractive than if they had achieved traction, since investors’ imaginations about the potential for growth can sometimes seem limitless. To do this:

First lay a strong groundwork and historical narrative for why your startup is necessary or is solving a particularly acute problem for customers.

The pitch of Airhelp, a service that helps consumers get compensation from airlines for delays, provides a great example of the power of storytelling. By focusing on the nearly universal pain of airline delays, poor customer service and bad inflight experiences, the founders of Airhelp empathized with their audience (face it, most investors fly a lot) and raised capital despite little traction.

Second, craft a story of what the world looks like at scale for your company and the effect on your target customer.

One of the best recent examples of this involved Boom Supersonic, the supersonic jet company. Boom’s pitch focused on the future results and effects of its technology, like trans-oceanic transit times cut in half and day-long business meetings in London. These tactics had the effect of making the company look more attractive because it focused investors on seemingly limitless potential whereby they could “imagine” the future in their own minds. This is exactly what startup founders should want: investor buy-in to their vision.

Draw comparisons to leaders’ companies in your space.

One of the most important tools in the entrepreneural “pitch arsenal,” if you will, is the ability to draw analogies between yours and previously successful businesses. If you do not have the metrics to raise at such an early stage, analogy is a useful tool to illustrate similar market conditions, customer dynamics and the potential for growth that other companies have already demonstrated.

Still, you must be careful when employing analogies. You must avoid your pitch being derivative (i.e. similar to another product but perhaps in a different geographical market) or too obscure or narrow to be obviously exciting.

Solving the “Catch-22” dynamic

For early-stage founders, the “Catch-22” of not being able to raise capital without traction and, in turn, not being able to generate traction without capital can be vexing and even fatal.

Fortunately, by focusing on your prodouct’s total addressable market (TAM), the power of storytelling and other previously successful businesses, founders can address some of the issues investors will likely bring up, and get back to building their company.


Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com:
How to Raise Money Even When You Don’t Have ‘Traction’

Early-stage entrepreneurs need marketplace traction to raise capital. And capital to generate traction. Here’s how to get out of this frustrating cycle.
Source: Entrepreneur.com By Alex Gold


How to Raise Money Without Lying

How to Raise Money Without Lying

Entrepreneurs often overstate their early "success" in order to get investors to buy in. Here's how to avoid this fatal strategy.

“We have grown 2,600 percent in three schools over the past four months,” a breathless and incredibly young founder boasted to me as he was pitching his new company: a mobile app for school scheduling.

Though this entrepreneur wannabee was so confident about his app that he was ready to drop out of the prestigious Wharton School of Business, what he didn’t count on was what a quick search of his app’s history would reveal.

In fact, I conducted such a search — on the App Store, no less. And what a few clicks on my part yielded was a simple fact: This young man was just combining many mobile apps, launched three years prior, into one brand. And, yikes, he was passing it off as something completely new.

“Love this concept and the business,” I told him. “And yet, I see on the App Store that you have a number of outstanding apps that are similar to this concept, and in fact contain the same UI/UX — but only with different colors.”

With only silence emanating from the other end of the phone, our conversation came to a quick end.

You would think that after the thriller-esque story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos or even after this young founder’s notable indiscretion, that every entrepreneur would learn one simple lesson: Don’t lie.

And, more than that: Don’t overstate what isn’t there. Don’t ever do this to investors. And especially don’t do this when pitching your business.

Yet, time and time again, I’ve been confronted by investors who complain about being patently lied to about everything from founders’ full-time commitment and product traction to the make -up of their financing rounds.

Shooting themselves in the foot

Aside from the obvious legal implications of this behavior, many founders don’t realize that in stretching the truth, they are often shooting themselves in the foot. They don’t realize that the fine line between being passionate about selling their business and outright fiction often results in their holding unrealistic expectations about whom they can recruit, or growth that they can’t achieve.

If you yourself are a founder, here’s how to avoid this type of behavior when you deal with two topics that are both critical to and common in fund-raising: product traction and the presence of certain investors in your round.

Telling the truth about traction and user growth

One of the most prominent ways in which entrepreneurs creatively “position” the truth relates to user traction and growth. With an investor reviewing on average close to 3,000 opportunities a year, he or she is going to pay particular attention to traction and growth. No one sums up this maxim better than Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham, who said: “Startups equal growth.”

Yet in reality, startups often don’t equal growth. For one reason or another, founders may not immediately capture consumer attention, may have issues with marketing and acquisition or may have to pivot before finding their groove.

But that doesn’t stop the most enterprising and daringly ambitious founders from overstating their traction in order to raise money. From disguising “bookings” as realized revenue, to pooling users from a number of different apps into one, founders will try anything.

Yet if your particular startup doesn’t have enough traction to capture investors’ attention, the best strategy, aside from telling the truth, should be to focus on the story you tell and how your concept will capture and own its respective market.

And the best way to do this is to focus on the scale of your Total Addressable Market, or TAM. In fact, by focusing on the potential TAM of their startups, founders can shift the conversation to more of what’s possible, which is often limitless, rather than actual early results.

Another strategy is to focus on future growth strategy and projections rather than actuals. Resources like the Entrepreneurs Organization or the Young Entrepreneurs’ Council provide founders with the easiest means to do this. The point of these suggestions? To provide a concrete framework of predictability around what is often the wild west of the startup universe.

Investors call one another for references.

When raising capital, eager founders may state that certain investors are “in” a particular round, when in fact the latter may just still be considering an investment.

In this respect, founders in many ways are responding to investor “herd dynamics” in that the presence of one investor or fund becomes an immediate incentive for another to invest. Founders think they can make up the difference and close as many investors as possible so that what may have started out as a slight misstatement is eventually obviated in a short period of time.

There’s a warning here, however: Founders may not realize that the investor community, in Silicon Valley and beyond, is extremely small. Investors often call and reference check one other on deals both to assess value and claim bragging rights. After all, the best deals are often competitive.

So, rather than employing definitive language saying an investor is “in” a round, founders should communicate that a particular investor has a clear and principled commitment to funding a startup but has not made a firm commitment yet.

Terms like “soft circled” and “committed in principle” indicate that particular investors are very close to a commitment, yet have not formally written a check. Even better, some founders might offer to connect prospective investors together in order to fast-track due diligence.

Yet another strategy is to pivot the question right back to the investor: Ask why he or she cares who else is committed. Investors should be willing to capitalize a business because they believe in the team, the product and the market potential. Not what other “name brand” investors may be in the round.

When founders pivot the conversation in this direction, investors will usually focus once again on the business rather than name recognition.

Doing well by doing the right thing

If you’re a founder: Pushing the limits when you’re raising capital, especially when it comes to traction and investor participation, only establishes a foundation for failure. By setting unrealistic expectations, often in the most desperate hours of fund-raising, founders are only hurting themselves.

Conversely, by being more strategic and tactful in their pitch, founders can achieve the same effect and close the investors they want.


Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com:
How to Raise Money Without Lying

Entrepreneurs often overstate their early “success” in order to get investors to buy in. Here’s how to avoid this fatal strategy.
Source: Entrepreneur.com By Alex Gold


How to Introduce Investors to Your Team the Right Way

How to Introduce Investors to Your Team the Right Way

Eager to introduce investors to the rest of your "rockstar team"? That meeting could be to your detriment. Here's how to turn your dilemma into a win and close the deal.

“We love you and your co-founder,but we want to meet the rest of the team.” The speaker was a partner at an investment firm thinking about sinking money into the startup my co-founder and I ran.

“Specifically, we want to meet the engineers on board and understand how they think about the product,” the partner told us. And, without even thinking twice, my co-founder and I promptly set up the meeting for the next afternoon.

The meeting happened. The partner and his associate met with our entire engineering and product teams.  We came out of the meeting in high spirits.

Which is why were shocked to find out the next day that the firm had decided not to invest in us. “We think you have a great thesis but the team is not really up to par to deliver on what the space needs,” the investment company partner told us.  “We saw some serious deficiencies that would have to be filled later on, at significant cost. Let’s talk at the next round once you have de-risked the company more.”

What investors expect

Often, as part of due diligence, investors will ask for a variety of materials ranging from product plans and customer contracts to even user testimonials. And, as a founder, you can control how all of these materials are presented. But the one factor you cannot exercise complete control over is the most important one: human capital.

By interviewing your colleagues, employees and collaborators, investors often attempt to understand whether the team has the knowledge, willpower and grit to pursue the opportunity.

Often these team interviews and meetings fall short of investors’ expectations. Those individuals may believe that the team is not experienced enough to build out a complicated technical product and incapable of pivoting at the right moment to build the product the market needs. Additionally, investors may believe that the team just doesn’t “gel” or isn’t “all in” on the startup’s mission. These conclusions can come from things as simple as body language.

Want to prevent this from occurring at your startup? Here’s how to position your team a different way — the right way.

Let investors “fill in the blanks” as you describe your team to investors.

Envision this scenario: You are in an investor meeting and the discussion starts to move toward your team. As founder, rather than offer to have the investor meet your team in person, you take another tack: You offer detailed descriptions of their skills and capabilities that clearly communicate your excitement.

You accompany these descriptions with visualizations. Using your naturally infectious descriptions as a foundation, you prompt the investor to take what you’ve said about your team and “fill in the blanks” with details that his or her own experiences and imagination conjure.

This tactic is nothing new. In fact, you are borrowing a popular filmmaking strategy. Lacking funds to build a mechanical shark while making Jaws, director Steven Spielberg used music and creative camera angles to create the feeling of a carnivorous creature on the hunt. Knowing that the audience’s imagination would “fill in the blanks,” Spielberg purposely set up the film to be that much more terrifying — and successful.

In a similar way, if you describe your colleagues, especially those in technical roles, as extraordinarily talented and qualified, investors will “fill in the blanks” in their own minds and equate those colleagues to analogous rockstar people they’ve worked with in the past.

In this way, you will successfully convince investors what you knew of all along: that your team is qualified.

Pre-empt the ask: Bring your best colleague to the meeting.

Again, let’s go back to that investor meeting. It’s smooth sailing as the meeting progresses toward the end and the investor seems copacetic. Yet, something is amiss. The investor didn’t ask a single question about the team or its qualifications. Why? You’ve brought along one of your most valuable colleagues to participate and answer the investor’s questions.

In doing this, you are not alone. Many founders look to bring one colleague, usually a technical leader, who has a strong grasp of business fundamentals, can easily explain the solutions for complex technical challenges, and can convey a sense of commitment to the long-term success of the company. Remember, though: Bringing too many colleagues to the meeting could overpower the investor and make him or her feel ambushed. So, be judicious.

Know that, ultimately, it’s about getting to “yes” faster.

The above tactics are about enabling you to close your round with less “last-minute” questions that could derail the entire process. Because what really matters to the long-term success of your business is not investor and team introduction strategy but rather working with your team to create a great product that customers love.


Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com:
How to Introduce Investors to Your Team the Right Way

Eager to introduce investors to the rest of your “rockstar team”? That meeting could be to your detriment. Here’s how to turn your dilemma into a win and close the deal.
Source: Entrepreneur.com By Alex Gold


How Rapid 'Testing and Learning' During Product Development Saves Time and Money

How Rapid 'Testing and Learning' During Product Development Saves Time and Money

Investing money and design work is all very well. But what do your (potential) customers think? That's what really counts.

A few weeks ago, I met with an extremely frustrated founder. “I just spent all of my capital building and designing a great product,” he fretted to me. “We hired the best branding and design team, and we paid top dollar for ‘first in class’ market research. Now, I can’t get anyone to use my product.”

“But did you know if anyone wanted it?” I immediately asked.

“Of course they do!” he said. “I know they want it because we’ve invested so much. How could anyone not like this?”

“But you haven’t really tested it!” I responded. “You haven’t gotten customers to sign up and pay, which is really easy with white label tools available on the market.” I’m not sure my words got through, however. The guy walked away, determined to keep “plugging away” — which, sadly, will probably yield him the exact same results next time.

Customers first.

All too often — both as a growth marketer and aninvestor — I’ve heard from entrepreneurs struggling to attract a customer base, even after they’ve invested millions into product development and engineering. Those things are important, of course, but not as important as what really matters: a customer base.

Yes, there have been notable failures that have occurred despite there being a solid customer base, as occurred in the case of Color — and the infamous Galaxy Note 7. But, overall, this failure by entrepreneurs to attend to the customer issue has been all too common. Failures may happen often, but the reasons behind them needn’t be hard to understand.

Digital products also have some real advantages: For instance, they have no red tape, like real estate development, for instance, where developers are often delayed from putting their building on the market as they wait for zoning approvals, design changes and construction permits. By contrast, a digital product, like a new SaaS tool or mobile application, can be built within days or weeks, and adjusted on the fly as customer feedback is received.

Unfortunately, many first-time entrepreneurstreat a digital product like a real estate development! They try to sell “the house” before they even understand whether customers want to buy it.

There is a better way. Rather than building a product full stop, you can learn as you go by testing and using tools to do this that are as simple as “interns and a spreadsheet.” Your goal? To understand exactly what your customers want and how to develop the product they need.

What an “interns and a spreadsheet” approach entails.

For many digital products, especially those that are direct to consumer, entrepreneurs can employ an easy three-step process for testing and understanding their market.

This process, titled “interns and a spreadsheet,” technically involves manually accomplishing many of the tasks you’ve set for yourself. First, Build out what the “MVP” would be. Second, use media and customer acquisition tactics to test whether your customer base will actually “buy in.” Finally, re-group around the value focus that your customers are responding to and build that. Here is more detail on these three steps:

Build the “MVP.”

First, set up a sign-up a landing page to start getting feedback. Companies that have been successful at this approach provide a clear picture of what they plan on offering. Good examples include the Muzzle app, which includes animation to illustrate how it works, and Transferwise, which also provides a visual means for immediately understanding the tool.

These companies’ landing-page descriptions include the value being offered and a call to action to encourage sign-up. In return, the company can better assess the level of interest in what it is developing by how many people respond to the call to action.

After following these steps, have “interns” or internal staff accomplish the bulk of the actual product work manually. This can include studying the overall environment and trends, and the competition’s offering; and conducting direct customer surveys and interviews.

Test user acquisition.

Testing user acquisition provides good evidence for whether or not you should further develop your product. There are a number of ways to test: First, create a variety of different sign-up pages that can be tested with different demographics. Using a tool like ClickFunnels is an effective way to match a specific goal or item you want to sell (a product, service, B2B application, etc.) with the most appropriate sales funnel template.

This is particularly valuable for any company that doesn’t have designers and developers to create those different funnels.

Next, spread your acquisition dollars across social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, focusing on different targeted groups to understand how each responds to what you’re offering. You can test various social ad campaigns for each group on these platforms to determine product viability.

Use content marketing to create articles that drive attention to the product in development.  Focus on one component of a value proposition within each article to attract a specific target audience-segment.

Review data and build into what customers want.

Review the data from your acquisition and then, as YCombinator’s tagline says, “make something people want.” With so much information available from audience members willing to share their preferences, opinions, challenges, desires and lifestyles, there emeges a much more detailed picture of what your potentials customers really want.

This data then becomes the blueprint you can use to build your product and be confident that your target audience will want it.

Adjust and deliver.

Often, entrepreneurs’ initial inclinations are proven wrong as they work through the testing and learning experience. It’s better to learn this bad news prior to full development so that you can talk about how to adjust people’s expectations and deliver a product that they actually want. Over the longer term, this process can save you money and time, minimize frustration and maximize audience engagement.


Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com:
How Rapid ‘Testing and Learning’ During Product Development Saves Time and Money

Investing money and design work is all very well. But what do your (potential) customers think? That’s what really counts.
Source: Entrepreneur.com By Alex Gold


Perseverance: Why It Was Southwest Airlines' Herb Kelleher's Most Important Lesson for Entrepreneurs

Perseverance: Why It Was Southwest Airlines' Herb Kelleher's Most Important Lesson for Entrepreneurs

Sadly, Kelleher died last month. But his legacy lives on: Ever hear of how he and his airline became Texas's largest bourbon distributor?

I was actually on a Southwest Airlines flight when I found out that the company’s legendary co-founder and chairman, Herb Kelleher, had passed away. Kelleher died on Jan. 3, but over the five decades before that, his vision revolutionized air travel. His creation, Southwest — arguably the world’s first low-cost airline — democratized flying for millions.

The company’s differential was that by competing more with bus services than legacy airlines, it could disrupt the market. This strategy was so successful that in 1993, the U.S. Department of Transportation coined the term “The Southwest Effect” to denote an increase in origination air travel and a corresponding drop in prices, in any market the company entered.

This achievement alone is sufficient fodder for any successful entrepreneur’s legacy. But the fact that Kelleher achieved all of that in a company that was, and still is, ranked as the best place to work in America, with employees who would go without pay to work there, says even more.

And there’s yet another lesson stemming from Kelleher’s and Southwest’s story: perseverance. Kelleher’s life offers a unique guide as to how entrepreneurs can and should persevere through even some of the most daunting obstacles they encounter and still come out on top.

What, exactly, does “perseverance” mean?

The importance of perseverance in entrepreneurship cannot be overstated. Starting a new business may initially seem exciting but often, after a short time, the shock of reality sets in. Product, customer and regulatory problems hamper business growth, and many entrepreneurs end up playing an inevitable game of “whack-a-mole” just to solve their problems.

Perseverance is the ability of entrepreneurs to see through these obstacles and still win them, regardless of how daunting any specific challenge may be. Perseverance, in fact, is often the “secret sauce” that sets the most successful entrepreneurs apart from mere entrants in their field.

Stand for something more.

When Southwest Airlines was founded in 1967, the airline had no employees and no jets; it had to gain an operating certificate just to fly. Given the company’s innovative business model, incumbents like Braniff and Texas International (both of which no longer exist) attempted to block Southwest’s operating certificate through a series of historic court challenges.

Though his airline was effectively grounded for  four years, Kelleher hung in there; his persistence ensured Southwest would, and did, eventually fly.

To accomplish this feat, Kelleher first offered his time as a practicing lawyer for free. More importantly, when Southwest’s board of directors wanted to abandon the fight three years in, Kelleher shouldered all court costs himself to get the job done. It would take two Texas Supreme Court rulings and one U.S. Supreme Court ruling before the airline could actually fly.

Before he passed away, Kelleher remembered that during that tough time, he was fighting for something more: the right of free enterprise and the ability to open the skies to consumers who couldn’t afford to fly.

Of course there have been other entrepreneurs with the same kind of tenacity, founders who have carried out some mission of their own with the same motivational force Kelleher showed. Patrick Grove, the founder of iFlix, is an example: He persevered through multiple roadblocks to democratize access to media and information in Southeast Asia.

In the process, Grove created Netflix’s biggest competitor in the video-streaming market. Belief in something more powerful than just a new business or the profits it may bring — meaning a belief in the business’s mission itself — will motivate you, your employees, stakeholders and customers. By turning your business into a cause, you will be able to persevere through some of the darkest days as an entrepreneur.

Think differently.

Shortly after Southwest launched, Braniff thought that by launching a fare class at half of what Southwest was offering, it could undercut the airline and put it out of business. Other airline executives and the consumer press promptly wrote Southwest’s obituary.

But not Kelleher. He understood that to persevere through this crisis, the airline had to think differently. Examining revenue streams, he discovered that most passengers were business travelers on expense accounts who cared little for cost savings and more for time and convenience. So, he made a unique proposition: Pay the full fare and get a free bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon!

This promotion was so successful that over the course of just over six months, Southwest became the largest liquor distributor in Texas.

Stories abound of entrepreneurs thinking “around corners” and not giving up; This category includes people like the founders of Airbnb and GoodRX for example. The real lesson here is to look at the challenge and the situation before you and improviseuntil you win.

Like Kelleher, you should assess the real drivers of your business and the levers or incentives needed to change course in your direction — not to just react to the imminent threat. Often, creative solutions will materialize because by looking at a problem differently, you will come up with a divergent solution.

Perseverance matters.

Kelleher sits among a long line of great, and often colorful, entrepreneurs who disrupted and revolutionized their respective fields. The one thread nearly all of these leaders have and had in common, and which Keller possessed in spades, was the ability to persevere through the most challenging of circumstances.

Kelleher’s legacy not only shows us the power of “thinking around” the corners of a problem, it shows us the extraordinarily motivating power of believing in something — a mission — greater than oneself. That’s advice every entrepreneur should heed.


Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com:
Perseverance: Why It Was Southwest Airlines’ Herb Kelleher’s Most Important Lesson for Entrepreneurs

Sadly, Kelleher died last month. But his legacy lives on: Ever hear of how he and his airline became Texas’s largest bourbon distributor?
Source: Entrepreneur.com By Alex Gold


2 Harsh Experiences Convinced Me Never to Invest in Friends' Companies

2 Harsh Experiences Convinced Me Never to Invest in Friends' Companies

How do you avoid the drama-filled minefield that can result when a friend pressures you for financial support? Try these 4 responses.

I’ve lost not one but two friendships this year because my response to an investment opportunity didn’t meet those friends’ expectations. The lesson I learned? Friends and funding definitely don’t mix. Here’s what happened:

Experience No. 1 occurred at 2 a.m., Sydney, Australia, time. I had just met my girlfriend’s mom, so it had been a full day. And, given the late hour, I just wanted to go to bed. That was when I received a text message from a close friend who had been pushing hard for me to invest in his business.

I had already told him in multiple conversations that thought he had a good “lifestyle business”; I had said I would support him but not invest. I would make useful introductions for him, I’d promised, to friends and family members I knew would invest.

Then came his text. “Sorry, just so you and I are absolutely clear,” he wrote, “we are not desperate for funding. We have $500K committed.  We’re good.” Shocked at his audacity, I responded with just one phrase: “Good you don’t need my help.”

We haven’t spoken since.

Experience No. 2 echoed No. 1 and happened earlier this year with someone I’d considered to be my best friend: an entrepreneur in Southeast Asia whose empowering presence, strategic presence and extraordinary determination had carried her through multiple business pivots. Through a series of calls and texts, she demanded that I invest in her bridge round or have my existing holdings and investment be “boxed out” of the new entity she’d create after she restructured her business.

Flabbergasted, I didn’t respond and decided to wait before re-engaging. Needless to say, there has been no re-engagement.

Proceed with caution.

As an entrepreneur, I am naturally attracted to people propelled to create and build something bigger. Because I have a similar drive and motivation, these relationships evolve into friendships.

Instinctively, I have invested both capital and time in friends’ businesses. Yet, every now and then, one of them presents a truly challenging business idea. When my response doesn’t meet that person’s expectations or I offer constructive criticism, the friendship often takes a turn for the worst.

Others say they’ve experienced the same thing. In The Startup Founder’s Guide to Fundraising, Justin DiPietro, co-founder and COO at SaleMove, expressed similar concerns about these kinds of investments, saying, “I would rather not take friends’ and family [members’]  money. It would add a massive amount of personal awkwardness and stress.”

Over the last few months, I have spoken with many entrepreneurs to determine the best methodologies for saying “no” to an investment in a friend’s company without jeopardizing the treasured relationship.  While the methodologies shared here are imperfect in many ways, I do believe they are better than just saying “no.” Here’s how to avoid this drama-filled minefield.

Highlight how other investments have “maxed” you out.

One of the most common ways many entrepreneurs decline to invest in their friends’ challenging companies is to highlight how other startup and public market investments have “maxed-out” their available capital for the year. Typically, no one will ask you how much money you have allotted for investments. You might only have a few thousand for investment or you might have six figures. Either way, all they need to know is that there’s nothing left.

This approach works because no one wants to question whether you are sure you don’t have any money remaining. Instead, this explanation shuts the conversation down without offending the friend asking.

Essentially, this strategy also buys you time so your founder-friend can’t ask again for the next month or so. Over the next year, there’s a good chance that he or she will find the funding elsewhere without the issue adversely impacting your friendship.

Offer to recommend the friend’s startup to someone else.

Another common method is to politely decline but then recommend other investors or stakeholders who might be interested and willing to invest in the friend’s company.

Share advice from the U.S. Small Business Administration with your friend. The government agency recommends that a company founder focus on potential investors that prove they have financial sense and a realistic view of your business plan.

In your network, you may know of some ideal investors for your friends who are more closely matched, with no personal ties. By your doing so, your friend will see that you have gone that extra mile to make a connection and find a funding source. Since so much about business is “whom you know,” the friend most likely will appreciate your effort to reach into your own network to help.

However, even with this approach, you’ll have to tread carefully. This process is similar to what happens when you try romantic matchmaking. Although all you have done is introduce one person to the other, if things don’t work out, there’s always the risk that either or both people may blame you.   

Give advice, not capital.

Rather than offering capital, provide other assets. These assets could come in the form of your time, connections and expertise, to assist your friend’s business as an advisor. Often, when starting a company, a founder prefers advice and guidance over capital.

Think about what experiences or skills you have, or that those in your network offer, that you can share with your friend. Suggest potential solutions to barriers your friend is facing or make yourself available as someone to bounce ideas off of. If you know a talented developer or marketer, this particular recommendation could be valuable.

However, as already noted, even constructive criticism can impact a friendship. If the friend isn’t willing to accept this type of guidance, perhaps yours isn’t a solid friendship based on open, honest communication.

Keep it all “business.”

I’m upset that my two friendships were ruined by the mixing of our business and personal relationships. In learning lessons for the future, I would avoid any investment in a friend’s business or any startup connected to a friend. However, I would gladly connect my friends to anyone who might help develop their businesses, financially or otherwise.

In sum, there are many other investment opportunities out there where the focus is strictly on the transaction and return. But no deal is worth risking your friendships. Once the damage is done, it’s difficult to go back to what you had before.


Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com:
2 Harsh Experiences Convinced Me Never to Invest in Friends’ Companies

How do you avoid the drama-filled minefield that can result when a friend pressures you for financial support? Try these 4 responses.

Source: Entrepreneur.com By Alex Gold


That 'Bad' Interviewee You Just Talked to May Be the Perfect Match for Your Job Opening

That 'Bad' Interviewee You Just Talked to May Be the Perfect Match for Your Job Opening

The ‘pattern matching’ that companies have long used to find the right candidate isn’t always the best strategy.

Think you’ve just conducted a bad interview? You may be mistaken.

Walking back to our office in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood one recent sunny Friday afternoon, I was excited about the job interviews I had scheduled for the afternoon. While some entrepreneurs hate this task, I’ve always relished it. To me, finding like-minded individuals with the requisite skills and a passionate desire to change the world — or something “like” that — is thrilling. Right?

At least it is for me: That afternoon, I would be conducting phone interviews for our open head of sales position, a notoriously difficult role to fill, not for a lack of candidates, but rather for the challenge of weeding out the perfect candidate truly skilled at closing sales and helping to build our health-intelligence platform.

That afternoon, however, reality set in, in the form of close to ten disappointing phone calls.

Picking up my phone once more, I made my final call — to the most unlikely candidate of the bunch. And, within two minutes, I was floored: This guy was quizzing me on my knowledge of our business space. Not only that, but he was also asking about my personal relationships with competitors. Huh?

Calling around to other founders after the interview, I quickly uncovered a strong consensus based on those founders’ individual experiences: This candidate’s comments weren’t weird or unwelcome, they said. In fact, they considered the best salespeople to be the ones who quizzed them.

For me, this was the first of many unexpected interview lessons that I learned “on the fly” as a startup founder. One of those lessons was that, in conducting job interviews and evaluating candidates, most hiring managers rely on “pattern matching” — the idea that you can identify patterns in candidates, in terms of their personal attributes and skills which align with your organization’s mission and values.

In the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning, this practice has intensified, as pattern matching has gone high-tech. Recruiters and organizations are turning to algorithms to more accurately identify talent “matches.”

However, even with this new data analysis capability, the concept of pattern matching can break down. Here are some further lessons I’ve learned that demonstrate the fallibility of “pattern matching” and why it may be challenging to rely on it during job interviews.

1. A “bad” interviewee could be the right colleague.

We often want to hire people we get along with. When a candidate can quickly and seamlessly integrate into the team, we can almost immediately leverage that collaboration for better business results. What’s more, the likelihood of conflict diminishes significantly, removing obstacles that often impede organizations when team members have contrasting values.

Finding thatseamless integration can be quickly determined through an interview, where we evaluate someone for his or her skills and ability to gel with team members. Yet, even a bad interview doesn’t mean the candidate won’t be a good match.

“Sometimes, a challenging interview does not equate to a poor hire,” Simon MacGibbon, my colleague and CEO of the health-monitoring company, Myia, told me. “You need to be able to look at the scope of the entirety of the candidate, including background interviews, reference checks and work product. Basing hiring on interviewing alone puts many companies at risk of passing over candidates with valuable skill sets and different, but complementary, personalities.”

2. Hire for attitude. Train for skills.

Herb Kelleher, the legendary co-founder of Southwest Airlines, said it best in the book Nuts!: Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success: “Hire for attitude and train for skills.” This, of course, is how Southwest grew from relatively humble beginnings into one of the largest airlines in the world.

However, interviewers may be biased toward skills over attitude. Naturally, it is easier to opt for a quantifiable metric than to dig into a candidate’s personality and disposition.

Consider Michael Lewis and his book Moneyball, which recounts how professional baseball started using Sabermetrics to determine a player’s skill level and performance potential. Other industries have likewise leveraged specific metrics and assessment tools to identify the right candidates for open positions.

However, stringent metrics aren’t everything and may not always deliver the right candidates for a constantly evolving business environment. Some of the nation’s top entrepreneurs are now hiring candidates who are demonstrably adaptable and who can forge their own paths.

“When hiring, we focus on grit and fit over pedigree and expertise,” Daniel Fine, founder of Neu Brands, told me. “All are relevant and important, but when you’re building a rapidly scaling company, culture and team alignment have to be the top priority. This isn’t something I’ve always been successful with, but having learned the hard way, it’s now a focal point.”

3. Interviewees who interview you know they can get a job anywhere.

Going back to the example of our search for our head of sales candidate: The best candidates for a position will often interview the interviewer to learn whether they can be successful in the role. These days, they know they can go anywhere; record low unemployment works in their favor.  Yet, remarkably, a lot of entrepreneurs and managers do not respond positively to this shift in power which gives talent the upper hand. Many positions go unfilled, as a result.

A 2018 research report confirmed this. Titled Talent Intelligence and Management Report, from Eightfold.ai and Harris Interactive, it compiled findings from 1,200 interviews with CEOs and found that 28 percent of positions went unfilled.  Also in the study, 87 percent of CEOs and CHROs stated that they were facing at least one talent-related challenge. Employers are even giving up college-degree requirements in an attempt to widen their candidate pool.

So, the next time a candidate interviews you, in his or her job interview, you may want to think again. This person is probably more sought after than you think.

It’s time to win the right talent.

It may not be a good feeling for a founder or executive to come to grips with this new reality. However, it’s also a valuable opportunity to change your interview approach and start evaluating candidates on more than experience and skills. By accepting this new shift in power, you can improve your position in the race to hire the best talent.


Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com:
That ‘Bad’ Interviewee You Just Talked to May Be the Perfect Match for Your Job Opening

The ‘pattern matching’ that companies have long used to find the right candidate isn’t always the best strategy.
Source: Entrepreneur.com By Alex Gold


When Pitching Investors, Your Product Doesn't Matter (as Much as You Think)

When Pitching Investors, Your Product Doesn't Matter (as Much as You Think)

Ever considered upping your storytelling game? That’s actually something as important to investors as your product.

It was a perfect sunny day and my spirits were high. My co-founder and I had a meeting lined up at one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious investment firms, which had funded such startups as Snapchat, Dropbox and Airbnb. Our thought: We’re next.

We began the meeting with the firm’s general partner by whipping out our standard presentation deck. It provided a strong product overview and proof of early traction. However, this is when things started to go sour. The general partner started fidgeting, working the phone as thugh he had an impending Tinder date and distractedly gazing out the window as if to ask, “I wonder what ski conditions are like in Tahoe right now?”

Hitting a point of exasperation, he finally interrupted. “Honestly, I am sure your product is great,” he said. “But, I don’t care about the product as much as you might think. Stop going on and on. I get it. What I care about is what you are building for me. The revenue. The opportunity for return. That’s different than what you are building for your customers.”

That was the moment that we got it. Well, I got it.

Like every other entrepreneur, we entered the meeting eager to go over what we’d built and what we thought added the most value: our product. Also, being nervous during the presentation, we tended to focus on what we know best, which was (again) our product.

However, that approach ignored a critical point. Entrepreneurs are actually building two products: one for customers and one for investors. While the product you’re constructing for customers is the one you are passionate about, the product you are developing for investors is just as important. That’s because it’s focused on revenue, team makeup and other intangible dynamics.

Both “products” are crucial for success.  Here’s how you can master storytelling for these two critical audiences.

The product you’re building for your customers

Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm outlines some key concepts on how to focus on the product you’re building for customers. The first concept he details is an entrepreneur’s need to create a unified approach for the marketing effort companywide.

To maximize resources and ensure strategic alignment, the entire management team needs to participate in the product development process. The task can’t be left solely to the marketing gurus in your company. Full participation ensures that the story stays consistent from the first draft to the final unveiling.

His second piece of advice is to pay attention to the technology-adoption life cycle. In building a product for customers, you’ll need to know when they’ll be willing to accept new products, especially if your product involves some type of disruptive technology. That requires research to discover customers’ comfort level for changing something they’ve been used to doing a certain way.

Some customers will eagerly embrace a continuous innovation cycle for products, such as an upgraded version of their smartphones. Other products — for example, an electric vehicle — may take much longer to gain acceptance. Knowing customer interest, behavior and adoption rate is integral to building the right product at the right time.

Finally, Moore’s third concept has to do with maintaining momentum. No matter what the product may be, customers over time experience a continuous technological progression that affects their expectations and addresses their needs slightly differently. If you don’t address or incorporate ongoing emerging technology, your competition will steal your customers.

The product you’re building for investors

By way of contrast, investors tend to care about a different type of product. They want the intangible story “behind the company.” This usually includes four topics:

  • Product
  • Revenue
  • Team
  • Systems

To tie it all together for investors effectively, you’ll need a solid storytelling ability. According to Nathaniel Krasnoff, the principal at Wildcat Venture Partners, “The vast majority of the time, when you pitch, you’ll only get a 30-minute opportunity. It’s your one shot to get your foot in the door.

“With funds looking at anywhere between 1,000 to 5,000 companies per year, you need to be able to sell your company clearly and concisely, with a great story,” Krasnoff told me.

Storytelling, then, goes beyond a good pitch. “Storytelling is a foundational skill because if you can’t sell us, then you probably can’t sell your customers, and you will also probably have difficulty selling potential recruits,” Krasnoff said.

The product fallacy

Product is probably the least important of the four topics I mentioned earlier. It matters primarily in the earliest stages, as you are driving toward a minimum viable product (MVP). Yet, at a certain point, if you haven’t figured out your product, you won’t be able to raise funding anyway.

If an investor believes that what you’re building is legitimate and viable, he or she will do due diligence to learn more. The primary reason startups fail is that founders aren’t thoughtful about their MVP. They ultimately raise money for a sales team that is selling the wrong product.

Revenue and systems efficiency

When you’re thoughtful about what you’re building, the answer to, “Will this product make my users heroes at their organizations?” will be a resounding yes. From there, you will need to quantify what that means, in order to determine your pricing model and the systems you need to build. Next, you’ll follow up with a demonstrable and solid understanding of how you acquire customers and the costs.

Then you can go out and raise capital to add fuel to the fire.

Team above all

Building a company is the hardest thing you will ever do. That’s why no one wants to do it alone. The team you form will determine your success at every critical stage. This factor often becomes the difference between winning and losing.

If you surround yourself with the best people, then the journey becomes smoother. In interviewing many successful founders, I’ve discovered that they often had one key hire who altered the culture or built the right systems to change the company’s direction.

For customers and for investors

It’s helpful to measure your success along a chronology developed by Wildcat Venture Partners called the Traction Gap. As you move along the Traction Gap, the focal point of these four topics changes, while the key inflection point remains the same — the importance of building a product that customers will willingly buy.

Simultaneously, you must develop systems that reduce the friction involved in acquiring those customers. This helps raise the capital to scale those systems accordingly. And that in turn helps you create a product that matters to investors and customers alike.


Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com:
When Pitching Investors, Your Product Doesn’t Matter (as Much as You Think)

Ever considered upping your storytelling game? That’s actually something as important to investors as your product.
Source: Entrepreneur.com By Alex Gold


This Is the Only Reliable Way to Get Valuable Investor Intros

This Is the Only Reliable Way to Get Valuable Investor Intros

Expanding your network is the only way you’ll meet the investors you need to grow your business.

If you want investment dollars for your business, you need to meet people. But that’s easier said than done, right? If you had throngs of investors filling up your inbox every day, you wouldn’t be looking for ways to round up funding.

But I have some good news. You probably already have resources in place that can help get you there. Warm introductions are the key to generating investment dollars as in many cases, investors cannot take unsolicited pitches or introductions. If you can get mutual friends to connect you with the investors on your list, you stand a better chance of getting the funding you’re seeking.

The best new tool in your funding toolbox is lead mining, which helps you get those crucial introductions. Lead mining is an organized way to help you mine your contacts to find mutual connections that can make those introductions. Using lead mining, you can close your funding round in weeks when it otherwise would have taken months.

This strategic guide will help you get started on your lead mining efforts.

Create a map

To start, you’ll need to get a grasp of your entire network. LinkedIn will likely be the best tool for this, since this is where you can easily see not only your connections, but their connections, as well. At one time, you could generate this information through LinkedIn’s InMaps, but that feature is ancient history.

One of the best third-party tools for this is Socilab, which outputs a map of your network and gives you the opportunity to see your macro groups. You can also see “nodes,” which connect your various macro groups, and “outliers,” which don’t connect to your existing networks. Don’t dismiss the outliers. Those people can be just the bridge you need to that investor that most of your network has never met.

Meet with ‘super connectors’

Look over your network and try to identify the “super connectors.” Once you’ve identified those within your network who can introduce you to the right people, it’s time to get to work. Reach out and ask for a meeting, whether it’s an offer to buy lunch or a request for a brief cup of coffee to catch up one morning.

Once you’re face to face with the person, don’t jump right in to ask for a favor. Instead, make an offer to help the other person with something. Ask questions to determine what that connection may be working on at the moment and offer to use your own resources to help.

Ask for the intro

After you’ve scratched your connection’s back, it’s time for a little return scratching. You’ll want to be subtle about this. Nobody likes to feel as though they’ve been scammed into helping. Simply mention offhandedly that you’re thinking about pitching an investor you’ve noticed they know and see what they say.

You’ll immediately be able to gauge your connection’s comfort level with your ask in that moment. That will give you the confidence to proceed. You may find that the connection initially claims he or she doesn’t know the investor all that well, only to later get a phone call that they’ve mentioned your business or handed over your contact information to the person.

Repeat the process

Once you’ve achieved this first introduction, whether it lands investment dollars or not, it’s time to move up the scale. Shoot higher with each introduction, looking for investors who stand to help move your business to the next level. If you’ve identified a dream investor, always go to that map to identify someone who can help you meet the person.

Don’t forget to continue to expand your network. This will help you grow your focus from networking groups where you can meet potential investors and business partners to simply reaching out to meet others in your community. Everyone you add on LinkedIn, whether you meet them briefly at a national conference or they’re someone you worked with years ago, has the potential to help you reach your funding goals.

Lead mining seems like a game because it is. The problem is, many people know how to play that game and, yes, they’re looking for funding, too. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive as you expand your network, since that will help you get the money you need to grow your business’s bank account.


Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com:
This Is the Only Reliable Way to Get Valuable Investor Intros

Expanding your network is the only way you’ll meet the investors you need to grow your business.
Source: Entrepreneur.com By Alex Gold