Listen to everyone, then make up your own mind

“Don’t take too much advice. Most people generalize whatever they did, and say that was the strategy that made it work”

Ben Silbermann, cofounder of Pinterest

When we raised our seed round for Ridejoy, we got lots of great advice from many smart, experienced people. This was wonderful except that much of the advice was contradictory:

We had never raised capital from anyone (friends/family, angels, VCs) before and it was a little frustrating to seek out perspectives from people who had fundraising experience or who invest for a living and get such ambiguous advice!

Ultimately we had to carve out our own path by being relentlessly resourceful. We took the advice that made the most sense, made pitches, learned from our mistakes and iterated till we figured how to make it work.

I could write a “top 10 list of tips on raising a 1.3M seed round”, and maybe I will another day, but the point of this post is that with fundraising, as with many other things in startups and life, you’ll never be totally sure that you’re “doing it right”.

The best you can do is listen to everyone and then make up your own mind.

This is scary because that means if things blow up, you have no one to blame but yourself. On the other hand, this approach affords you the strongest learning opportunity (because you decide for yourself what you’re going to do) and over time, makes you a more capable individual.

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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    • AH here we go: “Get information, not advice. See most people—no matter how wise or successful—give horrible advice. They’ll send you astray. So don’t ask for advice. Ask them for information that you can translate into advice.”From that blog I mentioned at your Skillshare =) 

  1. So true, and too often learned the hard way.
    A related point: whenever someone gives me advice, I always ask “What’s your reasoning for that?” Very often someone’s advice is just a prescription: “If I were you, I’d do this.” I think there’s almost no value in that. Even if the advisor is very smart or accomplished, it’s probably a bad idea to just blindly do what they say, for a bunch of reasons. But reasoning is useful; you can examine it, test it, and use it to inform your own decision.

    •  @jonkrop For sure, reasoning is really important. A lot of times the reasoning is based on hypotheses about the real world or generalizations: “In my experience, VC’s do pose a signaling risk for startups” which is hard to prove or disprove, so you still have to go with your gut.

  2. I think this is a great post. The only thing I would add is to look for patterns in the kind of people who give certain kinds of advice, and make your first decision about what kind of person you want to be.
    mechanical_fish explained this point far better than I ever could, so I’m going to just copy his comment (probably one of the greatest comments in HN history) right here. (original link:
    mechanical_fish writes:
    This guy has gone to the zoo and interviewed all the animals. The tiger says that the secret to success is to live alone, be well disguised, have sharp claws and know how to stalk. The snail says that the secret is to live inside a solid shell, stay small, hide under dead trees and move slowly around at night. The parrot says that success lies in eating fruit, being alert, packing light, moving fast by air when necessary, and always sticking by your friends.
    His conclusion: These animals are giving contradictory advice! And that’s because they’re all “outliers”.
    But both of these points are subtly misleading. Yes, the advice is contradictory, but that’s only a problem if you imagine that the animal kingdom is like a giant arena in which all the world’s animals battle for the Animal Best Practices championship [1], after which all the losing animals will go extinct and the entire world will adopt the winning ways of the One True Best Animal. But, in fact, there are a hell of a lot of different ways to be a successful animal, and they coexist nicely. Indeed, they form an ecosystem in which all animals require other, much different animals to exist.
    And it’s insane to regard the tiger and the parrot and the snail as “outliers”. Sure, they’re unique, just as snowflakes are unique. But, in fact, there are a lot of different kinds of cats and birds and mollusks, not just these three. Indeed, there are creatures that employ some cat strategies and some bird strategies (lions: be a sharp-eyed predator with claws, but live in communal packs). The only way to argue that tigers and parrots and snails are “outliers” is to ignore the existence of all the other creatures in the world, the ones that bridge the gaps in animal-design space and that ultimately relate every known animal to every other known animal.
    So, yes, it’s insane to try to follow all the advice on the Internet simultaneously. But that doesn’t mean it’s insane to listen to 37signals advice, or Godin’s advice, or some other company’s advice. You just have to figure out which part of the animal kingdom you’re in, and seek out the best practices which apply to creatures like you. If you want to be a stalker, you could do worse than to ask the tiger for some advice.

  3. Wow, awesome weblog layout! How lengthy have you been blogging for? you make running a blog look easy. The entire glance of your web site is excellent, let alone the content!

  4. “Wisdom comes from multiple perspectives.” Gregory Bateson
    That’s one of my favorite quotes and your post and what you expressed as a learning here reminded me of it. It”ll be very cool to see the story of how these multiple perspectives led you to your 1.3M.
    I also completely agree with you on the stand point of how making tough “ass on the line” decisions help you become a more resourceful, confident and capable individual.  

  5. Being in the crowd financing business, it helps me to listen to the minds of the people. With the various kinds of pitches I reviewed what I often noticed are entrepreneurs asking for too much capital more than what they need. And often it ends them up with not receiving support at all. I definitely agree with what was said about not asking for too much capital more than what is needed.

  6. Thanks so much for the wealth of the resource. it gives entrepreneurs like myself a chance to believe that great ideas are still on horizon.

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