Learn from Experienced Innovators, Social Entrepreneurs, and Change makers
Adam: Hard knocks. Like I said, that first year of taking people to lunch to get them to buy my product. It’s just kind of the same thing with funding. Just taking angels to lunch. When you’re young and you start a company, people will generally take pity on you. If you’re some 45-year-old starting your fourth business, people aren’t going to let you buy them lunch to get free advice. But that was my main strategy. I’d take angels to lunch. I’d figure out what that world was all about. I’d take former entrepreneurs to lunch. The founder of Control4, Josh James at Omniture, Patrick Byrne at Overstock.com. I’d take these guys to lunch and just figure out how’d you start, tell me about angels, tell me about different ways to structure deals.
Andrew: How’d you get all those guys to give you the time of day let alone to sit down with you over lunch? It’s not easy to get people to let you take them to lunch to pick their brain.
Adam: I always had to find an intro through someone they knew and respected. So it was spider’s web of just trying to connect the dots. I’d get an entrepreneur that would like me and I’d say, “Who was your best investor?” And Josh James, his largest private investor was this Japanese guy named Nobu Mutaguchi. Made an intro Nobu, Nobu put in 25k just on Josh’s word in a round years ago. And later on put in another few hundred grand and then a million dollars. Today he’s one of my biggest shareholders, one of my favorite investors and just made that intro through Josh. And that’s probably how all of them happened is I’d take someone to lunch who talked really highly of someone and they’d make the intro for me. Like I said, I think if you go with the approach, especially when you’re young of, “Hey, I just want to learn from you,” people generally will let you take them to lunch. Everyone needs to eat.
Andrew: How do you win them over so much that they then want to introduce you to their friends and trust you enough with those kind of valuable introductions?
Adam: I think telling everyone the story of selling my house, selling my Beemer, moving my family back into an apartment. I think people like to see passion from entrepreneurs. They like to see people who aren’t coming to them saying, “I have this business idea and I’m thinking of starting it.” They like people that are like, “Dude, I just freaking threw myself into the fire and I’m burning up right now. Will you help me?”