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The Smart and The Idiot

One guy invented a smart light switch you can control it with your phone (no rewiring required) and the other one “invented” a wrist band. Just rubber, nothing more. Lets’ just call ‘em “The Smart” and “The Idiot”. Don’t rush into appearance. You might say, the “idiot” just plays a role, is very cynic, is making a point, wants to be famous etc. Yet, you can’t say for sure the smart one will have 100% success, or 70%, or 50%.

The world is very complex in wisdom and stupidity as well. So complex that you might consider those days an opened VC pocket in front of the stupid fellow.

I’ll present you in short both stories and then I’ll make my point.

1 – THE SMART

smart light switch prototype

“Requiring no tools or rewiring, the Switchmate magnetically snaps into place right over your existing light switch. Pop it on and you’re instantly controlling your lights from your phone, and in a way that doesn’t interfere with standard, phone-free operation.” Tech Crunch

You can find the video presentation right here, but don’t click the link just yet. Stick with me for a while.

2 – THE IDIOT

Flipband prototype

“The FLIP BAND he’s promoting is NOT a tech-infused wearable, however. It’s…well…it appears to be something that’s more akin to a reversible, thicker, silicone gel Livestrong bracelet. The idea is that you wear the bracelet on the black side before you achieve your daily goal (e.g. eat something healthy, drink more water, etc.) and then flip it over to the green side after you’ve accomplished it.” Tech Crunch (see the entire article here)

That’s it!

 

Now, this “idiot” – I don’t really believe he’s an idiot. In fact is very intelligent and eloquent. – proves some collateral points. The startup market is so saturated that someone can perfectly mimic the entire process, like following some manual or something. (There are, of course, manuals for startups, but this is not the subject of our discussion.) It’s like a tutorial of how to present your idea publicly.

Your sponsor wants to see a great team? No problem, we’ll fake that by training our team spirit with jokes, team buildings and parties for a few days. Oh, wants to see great advisors? Yeah, sure, I know someone who knows someone, and I’m sure that person will take the advisor role when (s)he will see all (fake) signals of a healthy startup.

Another point is that even your common sense is telling you this Flip Band is a dumb product and it will never have any kind of traction whatsoever, but still, this guy has good answers to all the questions a VC can ask. See my previous article here. And those are serious questions.

 

On the other hand, the other guy doesn’t have all the answers. He’s shy, embarrassed by all important persons watching him with critic eyes and I bet he has the “impostor complex”. Probably he started asking some friends, family members and neighbours if they would use this kind of product and that was all the research he could have done. And it’s fine. He’s probably an industrial designer, engineer, programmer or whatever so focused on his work field that came up with this great idea. Can he do it? Yes. His peers would find this useful? Yes. Then he started to work on prototype.

At this point even though some VC or angel investors is seeing this as a brilliant idea, cannot help themselves from arrogance and asks all those “suits questions” like:

“How do you grow your team and maintain quality?“ (I’ll use my gut and my obsession. I believe in the process, in this natural developing process and I’ll read some books. There.)

“Why will potential customers care and will they pay for it?” (Anything, man, can be a potential new twitter. Let’s just throw this product in the middle of the crowd and wait for a while. The crowd will make some cow path if there is any potential into it. And because it’s cool, that’s why I think they’ll pay for it. :)

“How well you know your competitor?” (Actually this is a trick question. The answer is your arrogance coefficient.)

etc.

 

CONCLUSION:

A boy found something shiny.

None of you know if this is gold. Only the crowd and time will tell.

You, as an investor, will never be happy with boy’s answers about a business simply because he wasn’t doing any real business so far. Just playing around with a gadget and passion.

Get your hands a little dirty and help him prove this product because YOU have the knowledge and resources. You KNOW business. Farm this boy into a business man.

So don’t play a bad script. Seems like it’s not quite relevant given the Flip Band scenario where “The Idiot” can please any question with an appropriate answer. See if the boy is responsible and a fighter. Use your gut. This gut is you blitz unconscious reasoning of your lifetime experience. That’s it for start.

PS: please don’t misunderstood my attitude. I don’t see VC or angel investors’ world as arrogant. In fact there are so many idiotic sturtups that you need to develop a defence reaction to this phenomenon. Everybody seems to have cultivated theatrical enthusiasm but less wisdom. It is required, is mandatory to look enthusiastic. Anyway, from another point of view, they might need to ask all those questions so see at least the entrepreneurs reaction to a problem raised. At the same time, neither all investors are wise people as we like to know. Most of designers are mediocre, most doctors, engineers, teachers are mediocre. Investors make no exception.

 

Featured photo: image capture from http://startupblink.com

Adrian Costea