You won't raise money with a TED Talk

I'll start off by sharing what might be an unpopular opinion: I tend to roll my eyes at 90% of TED Talks. It's not that I don't like the concept or find the topics interesting. It's because each presenter follows a very prescribed affect which is perfectly satirized by this video. There are outliers that can pull this off but in the vast majority of cases, when entrepreneurs approach an investor conversation the same way, no one ever takes them seriously. And by the way, sprinkling buzz words into your business/pitch (drones, AI, blockchain, machine learning, ICO, etc.) doesn't help your case either.

As much VCs like to talk about how they invest in "visionaries" the truth is it's largely B.S. Because unless you can figure out how to build a real business addressing a real problem, need, or want from a real customer, you'll never get two feet off the ground.

This problem is not exclusive to younger founders either. I heard a pitch from someone earlier this week who probably has 15 years on me that did this exact same thing! He's trying to launch five different products simultaneously and in total denial about whether a tangible market need for any of them actually exists.

Please don't brush this off with a "most geniuses weren't appreciated in their time." or "I guess I'll prove you wrong!" kind of mentality. It's amateurish. I'm not a cynical capitalist where short-term returns are the only thing that matters. The truth is you can't launch a startup by taking a conglomerate's perspective. It's hard enough to launch one product for one market and get it right let alone launching 10 products for 10 new markets that don't even exist yet. It's a recipe for making big promises that never gain traction and the last thing you want to have happen as an entrepreneur is to develop a reputation for being all talk and no action.

Most of the "great entrepreneurs" that helped to establish this persona (Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, etc.) built that personal brand first through much more concrete enterprises. If you think you have a vision at that scale, keep it in your back pocket and start off by creating something real, something tangible, something realistic and achievable first. Amazon started off selling books, Elon started with PayPal, Steve sold early versions of computers to enthusiasts.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and you can't build a mega unicorn until you earn your first dollar. Figure out how to do that first, then how to earn the thousandth, then the millionth and then revaluate where you are before you decide you're then next Google.

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James Shomar
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