At Science, we are fortunate enough to meet hundreds of entrepreneurs each year. And as you might imagine, we sit through a lot of early stages pitches some good, most horrible. There’s no doubt that confidence is often key — but maybe not for the reasons you expect.
Although I’ve met many great entrepreneurs who lack external confidence and a great many lesser entrepreneurs who have confidence in spades, I can say without a doubt that the confident entrepreneurs often walk away with funding.
It doesn’t mean their businesses are better or their skills superior. Rather, it simply means that they are confident selling themselves and their vision. When you invest in someone with confidence, you’re investing in someone who can typically get investors on her side and sell her vision to the staff. Importantly, that entrepreneur will likely also have a better chance of selling the business to a buyer in the future.
The best example of this is an entrepreneur who I met in Los Angeles right after raised a very early, very big $10 million round before the company was started. Over drinks with his new investor, the entrepreneur boasted about having lost venture investors more than $100 million in the past five years, and once again he couldn’t believe that someone just gave him $10 million. I pulled the new investor aside and asked if he was crazy, considering the startup’s track record of losses. He said he was confident in the entrepreneur’s abilities in this business.
Within two years, the entrepreneur sold that company, raised more money and started another. I cannot attest to the quality of his businesses, but I can speak to his high level of confidence and the fact that he seems to be on point.
So with that in mind, here are a few tried and true tips for ensuring the room reads your confidence:
1. Commit yourself. There is nothing more compelling than an entrepreneur that is going to execute her dream regardless of funding. While this sounds like an impossible feat for some, the most driven entrepreneurs I’ve met are committed to seeing their dream through no matter what. They won’t let a lack of money stand in their way.
2. Be genuine. I tend to hear pitches that are tailored to what the entrepreneur thinks the market, the investor or I want to hear. If you’re going after a need that you feel personal and have intimate experience with, that alone is often a signal toward success.
Out of Science’s ten deals last year, the one with the most activity was around a business that had started in the entrepreneur’s home. He built the company himself, and we partnered with him to scale it up. When I asked the venture capitalists that would later fund the company why they were so excited about that deal in particular, they referenced the entrepreneur’s personal experience of building the business to fit his need and his drive to do it regardless of the money.
3. Know thyself. As investors and advisors, we realize no single person embodies all the skills necessary to take a business from startup to scale. But the one skill we can count on is self- assessment. If you have an entrepreneur that realizes what they are and aren’t good at, it signals someone whose goal is not to centralize power and operational responsibility underneath themselves. This is someone who understands their own weak spots and is open to hiring for those positions.
At the end of the day, the goal needs to go before the role. You may not be the right CEO in the long run, but, if you can admit your weaknesses and get people smarter than you in those other roles, you will have a much higher chance of succeeding than those who put title first