I was invited to a product showcase and only had one hour to make the rounds of about two dozen companies. I had seen the list of exhibitors, so I decided on two to get focused on. I spent my time talking to them, and I had questions about their products and their benefits. The founders were enthusiastic, and they were very open to sharing information about their manufacturing processes and suppliers, which I was interested in learning more about. All this sharing happened in good faith, I believe mainly because there had been a previous verbal referral through a common friend. My main purpose with this exchange was to have a new reference point for entrepreneurs we work with in our programs, in this industry they operate in. It’s akin to adding another book in your shelf. If you are passionate about building entrepreneurship ecosystems, you can never have too many books in your reference library.

As I was rushing to leave, I was pointed to another entrepreneur, who had a complete line of tech products to show me. It was an IoT home automation play. As a late technology adopter in areas where the dust has not yet settled, I am not up to speed on where the industry is going, or on what the tech giants in Silicon Valley have up their sleeve. During the 15 or 20 minutes I had to meet with this smart and enthusiastic entrepreneur, I noticed a few things. For the first 10 minutes or so, I could not get a question in, to break the fast monologue in which he was demoing the very long list of features and capabilities his control app has. He showcased masterfully the dizzying arrays of devices, and options on devices, that his product can handle. He scrolled through what seemed like an endless list of TV models for which you can render a remote on your Android or IOS device. The amount of work that his team of engineers had put into making this such a complete product, to the tune of nearly $1M, was truly impressive.

When I got my chance, I asked some basic questions, to which I received the answers I needed. Do you have any sales traction? “No, but we have a laid-out channel strategy”. I had to leave soon, and I would have preferred to learn more about that, than be overwhelmed by the product knowledge he soaked me with. What are you looking for? “We are looking to raise additional capital, so we can handle large product orders when we get them. We are about to start a crowdfunding campaign, and after we do that it will take a month for it to be finished and we will have a better picture of where we stand.” I would have preferred to learn more about how their system is better than what is already out there, especially because I am truly illiterate in the IoT home automation space. I wanted more knowledge, of the kind I’m sure he can offer. I wanted to be educated.

Feeling a bit powerless, I offered to make a few introductions to screeners for investors I know. Not to leave him out in the wild, I will first email him a few pointers on the kind of message he needs to convey when he meets someone for the first time, and is trying to sell his product, or his company’s capabilities. I wish he learns how to describe the mountain within the landscape, before he grabs the next explorers and takes them up an incline on a guided tour with no map and no end in sight.

Our View from the Top – August 27, 2019