Looking for investors? Then remember this – no one loves as askhole

Looking for investors? Then remember this – no one loves as askhole

Editor’s note: Jim R. Roberts has been working for 22 years in North Carolina with entrepreneur support organizations in Charlotte, Asheville, Durham and Wilmington. Jim is the founder of the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW), WALE Angel Network and Rojo Octo Ecosystem Consulting. Jim also works with the SEEN Network at UNC Pembroke. He is a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire. This is the second of two posts. Read Tuesday’s column here.


WILMINGTON – Entrepreneurs need to rememeber this: NO ONE LOVES AN ASKhole.

If you are going to ask for time and money from the mentor, you need to LISTEN better IF you are getting good advice.  You know what your wise uncle said, people were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason.

I know, I have seen it and experienced it more times than I can count. An entrepreneur asks for that coffee meeting to get some FREE advice but keeps asking the same questions with no action, execution or progress.

Jim Roberts

A free piece of advice I wish I knew as a young professional, If you would not take a piece of advice from someone, dont get upset when that same person criticizes you. I hope you are watching the Man in the Arena show with Tom Brady on ESPN+ about the noise the Patriots were able to ignore.

The truth is that the best mentors simply ask better questions and help you be comfortable with your own answers. Even if you are given some advice by the mentor, you really need to filter that advice through your own integrity and experience. The Venture Mentoring Service has made a difference with CED and in Charleston.

Wilmington has an entrepreneur mentor network made possible by UNCW CIE incubator with support from an NC IDEA ecosystem grant. In fact, there may be more mentors than entrepreneurs since people have been retiring to the beach for decades from all over the country. We would LOVE to see more retired entrepreneurs participate in the current network setup.

Tough Love Makes the Entrepreneurs Stronger

There is also a ton of value in getting feedback from people that you DONT know.

Family, friends and valued members of the startup ecosystem are there as your comfort network to nurture you as fear and anxiety are common in entrepreneurial circles. None of them want to hurt your feelings by pointing out the warts on your ugly baby of a startup. Remember the Seinfeld episode?

Ideas on how to help NC’s record number of startups survive and thrive – read on

Each year we host a Tough Love event with five or more mentors from OUTSIDE of the community. This is constructive criticism from people about the entrepreneurs value proposition pitch that may be harsh but they dont have to worry about that awkward interaction of hard feelings when they run into you at social situations at cocktail parties or church. This tough love can make the difference in making you a better entrepreneur that people would put their name on the line for you. I have seen it happen in Asheville and Wilmington.

How Many Super Powers Do You Have?

The question really isnt WHAT is your Super Power but how many powers do you have as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur you have to be a firefighter, a cheerleader, a therapist and an optimistic fisherman/angler among many, many other superhero roles. Being a superhero does not mean managing crisis to crisis because you will exhaust the talented people on your team and they will look for healthier work environments.

Firefighter – If you follow Gary Vaynerchuk, he has a video where he makes it very clear that he works for his employees who deliver for his clients. So his job is to put out fires for his employees all daybetween making more videos and paid speeches.

Therapist – With young employees who need work experience at your startup, you as the entrepreneur/ founder / CEO are going to have to deal with some drama in the lives of the people on your team. They come to you as the leader to get answers from your experience and well, we know that even therapists have dark lives full of alcoholism and worse. So as the therapist, you will also have to find avenues to deal with your own stress through healthier living, healthy relationships and hobbies outside of work.

Fisherman / Angler – As a first time entrepreneur, you have to have a hundred lines in the water to land the resources you need. Your pipeline of sales has to be extensive if you only land one out three proposals. Your pipeline of investors has to be a long list of warm referrals and meaningful relationships. (Even some serial entrepreneurs can be rejected by the first 60 investors they talk to.)

Part of being a good angler is the blind optimism while knowing there is a ton of rejection and to be able to move forward despite hearing NO on a regular basis more than hearing YES. Some prospects and investors will get off the hook. But your resilience along with a full pipeline can get you to the finish line of getting your product to the marketplace and your startup to the scale phase where you will have additional new challenges.

GRIT(S) Are Not Just for Breakfast

All of this is to say, grit, toughness and resiliency can be learned and earned. Mentors and investors are willing to help people with grit and hustle but they are not willing to spend their political / relationship or even monetary capital on people with excuses for not executing.

You know you have given too many excuses when your communication attempts to mentors and potential investors suddenly end up in voice mails or the emails are not returned.

After you learn all of these lessons and your wounds and scars heal, please give back and pay it forward to help the next generation of entrepreneurs. When you reach success, send the ladder back down and give the help you wish you had when you were starting out in your entrepreneurial career. Be the solution to the problem.

Fear of Failure Kills the Product, the Company and the Relationships

Let’s face it!  Part of the stall of product development in a new startup is the fear of failure of the broader real world market beyond your inner circle of family and friends not liking your new baby (product.)

This is human nature. The same reason that a student may fear going to a new high school in a new city. The wider regional / national / international markets don’t know how hard you worked in your hometown to get this product out of beta stage.

So sometimes the product is ALWAYS in development and the company runs out of money because the founder never released the product for sales and without sales revenue, the investor money dries up.

Gary Vaynerchuk also says , “if your problem is perfectionism that is just a disguise for an excuse of fear of failure.”

Your employees, mentors, and more importantly your investors, deserve better.

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Kassie Hoffman
Kassie pens down all the news from the world of politics on ANH.