To be a successful startup founder you need a 90-second pitch, deep knowledge of your potential market, and the ability to be honest in the face of adversity.
That’s according to Shark Tank co-host Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful.) During a recent virtual visit to Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs, the prominent investor dove into the five things that typically get his attention — and could land you a spot in his ever-growing portfolio of companies.
- Have a 90 second pitch. You may only have seconds to get an investor’s attention. Use it to quickly and succinctly define the problem you’re solving and market your addressing.
- Know your numbers. How big is your potential market? How fast is it growing? What are the gross margins? Which geographic market are you going after first? How much share do you think you’ll gain in the first year? O’Leary expects quick, thoughtful answers to those types of questions.
“This is where I see failure all the time and it’s very depressing. I could be very excited about an idea and start querying on this topic and see complete confusion,” he said. “You have to know your numbers.”
- Explain why you are best suited to execute on your idea. Plenty of smart people have good ideas. What separates them is executional excellence.
“What is it about you and your team that can take this fantastic idea and execute on it? Do you know that industry? Did you work as an apprentice? Is it your family business?” said O’Leary. “Why you?”
- Be honest — especially when things aren’t going well. Of course you’re hoping to tell your best story to a potential investor. But you need to be honest about your challenges, too.
“I want to hear about what’s not working because I know how to fix that and I have the one thing that can often fix many things: money,” he said. “But, I need honesty and transparency. I would much rather get the truth about a horrifically bad situation than have somebody candy coat it for me.”
- Enjoy the journey. Entrepreneurship takes hard work and there’s no guarantee of success — so you better enjoy the journey.
“You don’t know the path you’re going to take for success,” said O’Leary. “The journey to entrepreneurship has many curves in the road. A lot of it is serendipitous. I really believe that. Entrepreneurship is not a destination, it’s a journey.”