On a monthly basis I hear two to three new startup ideas from entrepreneurs that want help with something (investor intros, thoughts on an issue, transitioning from consulting to products, etc). Unfortunately, a small percentage of the time I don’t like their idea and want to strike a balance between offering candid feedback and still being a nice guy. Nice guy tendencies usually win out.
Here are some different ways to tell an entrepreneur you don’t like their idea:
- Direct – give it to them straight and frank that their idea isn’t good and you don’t see how it could succeed
- Too many competitors – point out a number of other companies that are doing it and how you don’t see how they can be successful without a small fortune (look on LinkedIn to get a proxy for size based on how many employees a competitor has)
- You don’t get it – don’t focus on whether it is good or bad but be self-deprecating that you don’t get it and aren’t the best person to provide feedback because you can’t relate to it
- Poke extensive holes in it – articulate everything that is tough regardless of idea, and hit on all the warts of the specific idea
- Market focus while downplaying the idea – focus on the fact that the market they’re thinking about is good (small, fast growing, etc) but that you’re not sure if that’s the best idea for that market and that if you start with that idea there’s a good chance you’ll find a better idea
Telling an entrepreneur that’s excited and passionate that their idea stinks is hard. Very hard. Sometimes it’s the best medicine for them and sometimes it’s best to hold your nose and move on. Regardless, it’s always a judgement call.
What else? What are some other ways to tell an entrepreneur that you don’t like their idea?