A venture capitalist's job is to say "no" about 99 percent of the time. VCs even say no to ideas that we may find valuable or founders we think have a real chance of making it. At my accelerator, Techstars, we deny more than 98 percent of the startups who apply to our programs--but that shouldn't discourage them for reapplying the following year (or to a different program).
If you're a startup founder, you should expect to hear "no" more frequently than you hear yes. That doesn't mean that your company won't receive funding, or that your company doesn't have the capacity to do something great. It's a crowded market, and like you, many others are looking for funds, new hires, speaking slots and publicity for their ideas.
The best entrepreneurs never take "no" for an answer -- they take it as a challenge to show what they can do.
Where 90 percent of startups eventually fail, being discouraged by denial is a fast track to the startup graveyard. Where there once was a problem, find an appropriate solution to achieve your goal -- whatever that is.
Here are a few ways to stay positive, and focused, on your goal after being denied:
Strengthen the positives, pivot the negatives.
You're walking out of a meeting where you just pitched your startup's business plan to an investor. The meeting seemed to be going well, but it ended with a "we like the idea, but it's not the right time for us to invest." You can walk away thinking your idea is no good, or you can look back on the meeting for insights to strengthen round two.
What questions were being asked? Were they asking for confirmation on info, or did they not understand the concept? For either situation, there is a solution that will allow your second go-around to have better results.
If clarification was the basis of a question, make this info more prominent in your messaging and description. Lean on it to show strength.
If they didn't understand the concept, revisit some of the follow up questions and reconfigure how you're presenting your ideas. Oftentimes founders skip over the more granular details because they're so close to the idea. Simplifying your language, and envisioning that you're pitching your idea to a younger sibling, might make it easier to explain.
Don't accept, ask why.
Maybe you're reinventing an industry, or introducing a new experience that hasn't been altered in years. Or maybe you're just asking your IT manager to switch ISP providers. Complete disruption to even simple change is hard to grasp and even harder to bet on. Having an idea shot down should lead to a simple next step: asking why.
Some feel that a "no" is another form of "get out of my office," but in most cases you should take advantage of the time and ask for further insight into why your idea wasn't for them. By sticking around to ask additional questions, it shows your boss/a potential investor that you truly care about the idea, and also about their opinion. If you plan to go back after some revisions, this step goes a long way.
It's easy to follow denial with a bit of anger -- "I'll show them that this is possible." But don't let aggression seep into your solution. Bullying someone into a deal doesn't build a great relationship. And if you want to come back with a new idea, good luck getting another meeting.
A humble, confident presentation of ideas will make for a much more enjoyable conversation -- no matter the audience. Whether you're working with someone in your company, or an outsider, no one wants to work with an arrogant person.
"No" will help you grow.
Gaining confidence as a leader can be difficult in the startup world. There are many ways to get discouraged when starting your own business, but these discouragements need to fuel a fire of desire in order for you to grow in your position. If denial makes you want to throw in the towel, it may be too late to save your company from an early grave.
If you're a glass half-empty type of person, you're likely to forget to come back with your request after being denied. Being persistent, without being annoying, can often times can swap a "no" into a "yes."
If you really want something, don't give up on it when someone says it can't, or won't, happen. Steve Jobs never gave up on his dream to change personal computing, but imagine a world if he did.