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Do Not Ask Someone to Coffee Before Reading this Checklist, by @DaveParkerSEA

Posted by Jonathan Greechan on 2013-02-24

Founder Feedback gives you insights from the startup trenches.

As an early-stage entrepreneur, "your network is your net-worth", so a good portion of your schedule will likely filled with short meetings over coffee. These seemingly innocuous coffee chats can provide you with the feedback, capital, or other help that you need, so planning ahead can be useful. In a post on his blog, Dave Parker, Serial Entrepreneur and mentor of the Seattle Founder Institute, provides a handy checklist to make the most out of your quick meetings. 

The original article was posted here. Below is an excerpt;

 

"The call usually starts like this. “I was told by <name> that you could help me with <funding my startup/ improving my startup idea/ a financial model/ finding a co-founder or a good developer/ blah, blah, blah>. ______________, can I buy you a coffee?”

I love helping startups! I think I overcompensate for not having found very many mentors when I started my first startup, and I wish I had asked more questions before launching my first company. To state it better, I wish I would have known which questions I should have been asking before launching my first startup. So, living in Seattle and working with startups, I drink a lot of coffee. My favorite is simply two shots of espresso with whipped cream – a doppio con panna.

You’ll usually have between 30-60 minutes for a meeting, so come prepared. Pleasantries are fine, but we know you have an “ask”, so just get to it. You’ll benefit more from 30 minutes of their ideas than hearing yourself talk for the full 60 minutes.

Here’s a checklist of what to do, and not to do, in that meeting:

 

What to do:

  1. Tell them your idea – with clarity and passion. You don’t have to use slides, but if you do, make sure it’s less than 10.
  2. Tell them the problem you’re solving, and the uniqueness of the solutions.
  3. Tell them why you and your team are the people that will win.
  4. Tell them about your market traction, or if it’s early – why you think you’re going to have market traction.
 

Then…

  1. Ask what they think – then shut-up and listen.
  2. Ask what resources they would recommend for you (NWEN, TechStars, Founder Institute, classes, meetups, etc.)
  3. Ask if there is an area where they would be interested in helping you.
  4. If you have a specific request, ask (with the below exceptions).

 

What not to do:

  1. Don’t ask them to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement – your idea isn’t that good, and professionals won’t sign it. They’ll just talk about your rookie move after coffee.
  2. Don’t expect them to do the work for you. When you send a follow up email with your executive summary, make sure it’s simple enough for them to forward along - not something that they need to edit to make relavant, or is so long they’d be embarrassed to forward it.
  3. Don’t ask for investor referrals – you just met them and you’re going to need to do the work to prove that both you and your idea are credible. By the way, if they are excited about investing in your idea, they will tell you and be happy to make introductions.


“The best way to raise money is to ask for advice, and the best way to get

advice is to ask for money" - Fred Wilson 

 

Dave Parker blogs at http://dkparker.comYou can also follow him on Twitter at @DaveParkerSEA.

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