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Are You a Start-up Jerk?

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If you are starting up a company and find yourself pitching everything that walks upright these days, please watch this video called "Hardly Working, Start-up Guys."

Clearly the folks at CollegeHumor are embellishing for the sake of parody, but boy do they offer a reality check.

So how about you? Are you a start-up jerk?

Aside from the obvious (hello start-up guy on the right, 1986 is on the phone and wants its Ray-Bans back!), I can find five warning signs you may not be a stand-up, start-up guy.

1. You're too cool. Nerdy is better. Being cool in high school and college may have been good for your love life, but at a pitch meeting it just alienates the very people that you are working so hard to woo. Knock it off! Be a nerd. A nerd is someone who is hyperfocused and singular minded about their intellectual pursuits. Apply this to someone whose intellectual pursuit is a new business venture. Doesn't that sound like the person who will actually stick with their vision to fruition?

2. No one likes a know-it-all. In other words, stop trying so hard. It's great to be an expert in your field. If you're starting a business, you should be an expert in your field. But don't rub everyone's nose in it with a bunch of fast talk and gobbledy-gook jargon. Assert your expertise, but solicit feedback and collaborate on ideas to show you can partner on future projects.

3. Distill your pitch down to an insanely simple idea and cut the crap. Be careful with overtalking. What's the most important thing you want to say? What's the most important take away you want the other person to get from your pitch? What sums up everything in one or two sentences? Whatever the answer is to those questions, whittle it down even further and say it very slowly and clearly during your meeting so that it resonates. Don't drown out your pitch with distractions like name-dropping, posturing and mindless schmoozing.

4. You're pitching "at" your audience. Pitch to convert hearts and minds. Your pitch should invite feedback and engagement. It should feel collaborative. You are trying to get someone to support your business venture in someway. Why would anyone do that if they don't believe in your start-up idea? Don't just sell your company mission, convert them to it.

5. No self-awareness. Ask the risk questions during the meeting (example: What do you still need to hear before you can move forward)? Role play your meeting beforehand with someone who will give you brutally honest feedback. Discreetly record yourself in a meeting or during your side of a business call. What kind of impression are you making? Be brutally honest with yourself.  

With that in mind, go to the tape one more time.




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