A couple of months ago, a mentor of mine pulled me aside and gently made an observation...
"Tara...you are a great presenter. You are passionate and can make any story or idea sound interesting. I'd want you to sell anything that I was trying to get out into the world...HOWEVER...when you talk about yourself or your company, you sound uncertain and nervous. You lose that passion. I just wanted you to know how you come across."
It's true. And it is the craziest thing. I DO believe passionately in what we are doing with Buyosphere. I'm excited and energized with how awesome the site is progressing and I know in my heart that we are solving a real problem with what is being launched in a few weeks. I'm so excited, I'm up at night feeling giddy and have great ideas on how to grow and monetize and build a really strong, amazing business.
So why the hell do I get sheepish when I talk about it to others?
Because braggarts are irritating and I can't de-couple myself from my startup. The answer lies in how I tell the story. This is how I've been telling it since the beginning:
- I've been dreaming about solving the purchasing experience online since 2007 (I have)
- My co-founders and I are a tight-knit family who have grown together a LOT over the past 18 months (we have)
- The broken purchase experience relates to a story from 2007 - a search for a black skirt online that took me 3.5 hours and going to 13 websites (it did)
But none of these things matter. Yes, they matter to ME. This IS where my passion lies. But all three of these things make my business WAY too personal for me. So when I pitch my company, I'm essentially telling a potential investor, "Invest in me and my dream." Not a good sell. And, when that potential investor passes, he or she is passing on my dream, not my company, so it feels much more personal.
Buyosphere is my precious. And rejection of Buyosphere feels like a personal rejection.
I now understand that this is nuts. And I don't know if it's a 'woman' thing or what, but it's definitely a ME thing that I need to un-learn. Yes, investors say they 'invest in people', but they aren't investing in people's dreams. They invest in people they trust to build a business, sell that business, grow that business and, ultimately, make them a lot of money. These are not charities. They could give a flying snake that I've grown or what my shopping woes are. They want to know the big picture and how we get there. No preciousness. I'm starting to understand what some (who are very helpful mentors) have referred to as 'fluff'.
Someday when I write the chapter on 'how to speak VC', this will be the very first lesson (I have yet to know what the next lessons are). Very analogous to how the ring drove Smigel crazy and turned him into a paranoid Gollum, being too coupled with your idea will lead to heartbreak over time. Every rejection will become a personal wound. After a while, you will feel alone and hyper protective. It's a selfish thing. I have two co-founders whose ideas, input and implementation are just as formative (if not more) than my own. Investors become partners who also bring ideas and input into the mix. It is not 'my precious', it is a company. A company that I believe in and I'm excited about and that I will work hard to help succeed and be a great tool that will help people.
I wanted to share this revelation because I don't think I'm the only one who is stuck in this paradigm. I've heard others talk about their companies in the same way. And when you are so close to the idea, it closes you to input and growth. Knowing, instead, that this is your job (not your dream) and your job is to make your company wildly successful opens you up to more ideas and helps you see where you need to let go of others.
I'm working on shifting this paradigm now, but it won't be easy. I'm seeking outside help from people who can take me through the withdrawal steps:
- Reframing the pitch - de-coupling it from my 'dream' and speaking to the business opportunity
- Rethinking my relationship with Buyosphere - if it's not an extension of my identity, what is it? And really, who am I?
- Becoming the biggest advocate for Buyosphere I can be