As an investor, I am often asked for my opinion on a startup idea.
The truth is, my opinion actually doesn't matter.
My opinion is not going to be the reason why a startup succeeds or fails. My opinion is just that, an opinion. In the grand scheme of things, it's irrelevant.
I was reminded of this recently when I was reading Marc Echo's excellent book; "Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out". Marc's life story is a roller coaster read. As an entrepreneur, investor, and fashion designer, he has packed in a lot since 1972.
In his own journey he distinguished between the gate-keepers and the goal-keepers.
In our culture, it is too often "governed" externally, by outside gatekeepers in our lives or industries. Those gatekeepers may indeed formally be that "certifying body," or a boss, an "influential person" or just those cool kids that will roll their eyes at you for even having dare tried.They will get in your way, but those GATE-keepers are not the GOAL-keepers.
Goal-keepers are your customers. Goal-keepers are the buyers, the people on the street that will use/buy your product and if you do it right - they will tell others about your product. The opinion of goal-keepers is what really matters.
“Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.”
(A useful reminder from the team over at Pragmatic Marketing. They mean to emphasise that you cannot validate an idea through the opinion of the creator or investor. Only customers can validate ideas).
So - when someone pitches a start-up idea to me, what I'm really looking for is evidence that they have found a deep customer need. That customer need can't be validated by my opinion, after all, I am probably not the customer. I'm looking for the entrepreneur to share research results which show that buyers like the idea.
I can ask probing questions and I can help the entrepreneur think about how to take advantage of the customer need but I can't create the customer need, nor can I validate it.
What matters, is not my opinion, it's the opinion of customers.