Honest feedback is very valuable. In reality though – while we might not admit it – we’d rather hear validation of our idea than a criticism even if that criticism is the honest feedback.
I’ve found that a lot of start-up investors like hearing pitches and consuming information. In fact it seems like some start-up investors’ goal is nothing more than consumption of data and they have very low levels of engagement. My assumption is that they’re hoping the next Facebook opportunity is going to present itself in an obvious fashion and that is when they’ll engage.
My philosophy is different though.
I think feedback in some cases is just as valuable, or perhaps even more valuable, than an investment. So my preference is to do both. I want to engage of course with a team who is open to feedback and I can ideally contribute to their solution both financially and with valuable personal input. But in general I’m a bit of a business geek (in addition to my tech geekyness) so I like to provide feedback even if the venture is outside the realm of my investment sphere or if my opinion is that they needs to make some changes/adjustments/improvements prior to justifying an investment.
It seems this feedback isn’t always welcome though. If I think your business name could use some additional consideration (perhaps it rhymes with something that is a major turnoff), or if I question the specific vertical you are targeting and suggest another to consider, or if I question a function or feature – I’m likely to mention this to you. And you shouldn’t be offended. Really. You shouldn’t.
Believe me – getting honest, and sometimes painful, feedback is definitely not going to be the hardest thing you have to deal with when starting and growing a business. If less-than-positive feedback rattles you, well, you might just want to consider if you have the chops to really push through and execute on your business plan and all the related challenges that are sure to come up over time.
Also, if I have a very quick initial thought on your venture that doesn’t line up with your expectations – that’s a yellow flag. That’s feedback on the initial reaction to your venture from an outside party… someone outside of the loop… someone who doesn’t have an emotional interest but someone who does want you to succeed, and thinks this feedback might help you succeed. If I think X, Y, and Z then maybe you should expand your feedback circle and see if others think the same thing. I’m certainly not always 100% correct because every person comes into something with their own perspective and paradigms, but if I “don’t get it” or am “turned off” by a certain part of it – it’s possible that others (including your potential target users) will have a similar feeling. And getting honest feedback early from someone who wants to see you succeed may help you shift things enough to make the venture work; or make the venture work better than it otherwise would have.
Honest feedback is extremely valuable. If you’re starting up a new venture I recommend you invite, welcome, and fairly consider as much feedback as you can get, as early in the life-cycle as possible. Trust me. It helps.