Go ahead - pitch me on your idea...

As a casual member of the NextNY group, I try to check the group boards at least every few days…and one of the things I find out there quite often is one person or another asking for some tech. help to get their startup idea off the ground…sometimes they are met with pure silence from the crowd, sometimes they are met with a little interest, and sometimes they are just plain killed. I guess it all depends on how they ask and what the mood of the group is at that given moment in time (well that and who the person asking is within the group - heads’ up, if your first exposure to the group is a solicitation, you’re in for a flame war.)

Anyway, there was a recent request that was met with a bit of a backlash…and I think it was mostly due to the way the request was presented…so I sat down for a few minutes and thought about what, as a tech. person, gets me interested or not interested in an idea someone pitches me…what I came up with was shared as a post on the NextNY google group and got some interesting topics stirred up over there…for now though, I’ll just share my orig. post with you (go join the group if you want to get involved in all the extra topics it has stirred up!)

In the meantime, here’s my two cents on “How to motivate me to do your tech project”:

1. Explain to me in a simple way what your idea is so that I can see the value/need for it in the world. I guess this is what everyone else is calling an elevator pitch…but what I want is either an ‘aha’ moment or a 'why didn’t I think of that’ moment…the catch here is that everyone’s 'aha’ moment is different…but I never said getting me interested was going to be easy!

2. Convince me that there are one or two interesting technical challenges, but no more than one or two. Anything above one or two serious tech. challenges and the world just isn’t ready for your idea yet…scale it down until you hit the one or two mark or you’ll be stuck in 'researching’ solutions phase forever and never get to a release (or by the time you do, your solutions will be irrelevant). All the tech. people I know want to be challenged, but ultimately we want to build things that get out there and people actually use.

3. Show me that there is something in it for me…this can be money, but usually it’s something in addition to the 'eventual payoff’…maybe I’ll get to meet cool people because of the project, maybe I’ll get all the free Mountain Dew I could drink…whatever it is, there should be something that makes me say “Wow I want that, and that’s all I have to do to get it? I’m in!”.

4. Explain to me what everyone else involved in the project really brings to the table (and be able to back it up)…whomever the 'business person’ is going to be, show me that they really have the contacts, the skills, and the money to get feet under this project..just like I should be able to show you if I’ve got the tech. chops to really build the project…we all have to bring something serious and needed to the project or else we’re all going to be walking away unhappy in the end.

5. Show me that I’m going to be a big part of the 'ideas and decisions’…nobody joins a startup just to be a 'coder’…anyone who just wants to code is already doing that in their corporate day jobs or at high paid consulting gigs…we all (business dev., coders, marketing, etc.) join a startup for the challenges and to help shape/build something…so everyone, and I mean everyone who gets into your startup is going to want to pitch in on this stuff…make sure I know my ideas will at least be given a chance…

6. Be honest about how much time and work you *think* I’m going to have to commit to this idea…it’s OK that you have no idea what’s really involved yet (or how I’ll do what you need), but you should still have a 'feeling’ about what you think it’s going to take…what I’m looking for here is what your expectations of me really are, and how realistic they seem to me going in. I’m going to be 'guesstimating’ how hard I think what you bring to the table is as well…and I want to make sure we are on the same page as far as effort and expectations go heading into the project.

I guess that’s it. There probably are a few others…but these are the main things I’m looking for whenever someone pitches me on a 'join my startup efforts’. Anybody got any others?

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

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