The Weakest Link, Good Bye!

October 10, 2012

I was quoted in this article, about the new Master of Advanced Technology Enterprise course being offered by Victoria University:

Vic teaches mastery of a dragons den

For completeness, some other stuff I told the reporter, which didn’t make the article…

You don’t qualify your startup by winning a business plan competition, or getting a sucker to invest or being accepted into an incubator program. You qualify by building something customers want and win by selling it repeatedly to them at a price that is greater than your costs.

The best and arguably only way to learn about a startup is to be part of a startup. The good news is that’s very easy to do. There are no pre-requisites.

Actually, I’ve changed my mind on this since I was first asked. One of the things investors look for in founders is evidence of good judgement. On reflection this is an excellent negative tell.

I wonder if this reality TV approach frustrates people working in other areas? What do people who work in the music industry, or home renovators or chefs think of their reality TV equivalents? Maybe the distinction has been blurred in all of these industries too?

To understand the folly, take the text of the press release and replace all instances of “technology entrepreneur” with “poet”:

Towards completion of the course, each team will present their poems to an expert panel, with attracting funding being an integral part of the qualification.

Sounds excellent. I’d attend.

But, anyway, I’m done with this debate.

I hereby announce my resignation from the position of the guy who speaks out about this sort of stuff - incubators, business plan competitions, endless awards, and the whole reality TV approach to startups. Somebody else can comment on our emperors impressive new wardrobe from here on in.

When we work with founders we advise them to try and not get sucked into the noise and distractions that swirl around the startup eco-system, and to just focus on building a great product and business. For whatever reason I haven’t followed that advice myself recently.

Maybe a MAdvTechEnt is the missing piece to your startup jigsaw. Perhaps the safe environment of an incubator will help you get going. The Dragons Den could even be the ideal place for you to find an investor for your venture.

My mileage differs quite a lot. But, I’m not going to waste any more time or energy trying to convince you otherwise…

Good luck!