Stop Listening to Investors

"I just got out of my pitch with an investor and she told me I should be focusing on an entirely different market. If they are a startup investor, they probably see way more startups than I do and would have a much better perspective of what I should do, right? I'm just one Founder trying to chase my dream."

July 5th, 2023   |    By: Wil Schroter    |    Tags: Funding

Startup investors are incredibly useful experts — on investing in startups.

The problem for us Founders is when we start taking their expertise on building startups as gospel, and worse, start pivoting based on their feedback versus our own decisions.

This stems from the fact that as Founders, we don't really have a lot of data points or experience when it comes to the qualifications of investors. We tend to think that since they invest in startups, they must be experts in how startups operate.

Investors are not Fortune Tellers

One of my favorite indulgences is listening to an investor who has been thinking about my business for 60 seconds tell me what the future of my business will be. I will always politely listen (you never know what you might learn), but 99% of the time, my response is a very kind version of this:

"Let me get this straight. You've been thinking about my business for 30 seconds. I've been thinking about it for 3 years. Which one of us do you think is more qualified to predict my outcome?"

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but having an opinion, no matter who you are, doesn't actually make it true. If I pivoted my startup every time I listened to some investor give me half-baked advice on where the market should go, I'd have failed a million times. Stick to your guns — it's your vision — not theirs.

Learn from Players, not Fans

While we're listening to this cavalcade of opinions and unrequested advice, let's step back for a minute and consider the source here. Are we getting startup advice from someone who has never built a startup? It might even be solid advice, but if we're going to rank advice on how to play the game, do we want to learn basketball from Michael Jordan or the President of his fan club?

Even well-intentioned advice is a liability if it does not come from a competent source. There's a world of difference between those that invest and follow startups and those that build them for a living.

When an investor is telling you that your customer acquisition strategy won't work, or that the product features won't be compelling to customers, we can very politely ask "Can you tell me how you solved this problem for the startup that you've built? Oh, wait, you've never built one? Hmm." (Also, don't actually say that, but absolutely think it!)

A Checkbook Doesn't Make an Expert

But this is the problem that we keep coming back to. We keep assuming that because an investor has a checkbook, they must be an expert in what they invest in. Having the ability to invest doesn't make you an expert. I have the ability to invest in public stocks, but it doesn't make me Warren Buffet.

If you're not sure, check out the Bessemer Ventures "Anti-Portfolio." They "proudly" list Apple, AirBnB, eBay, Google, Facebook, and countless other companies they passed on. I've been fortunate enough to get funded by Bessemer and have to say — their attitude reflects that humility and is something you love to see in an investor. Now imagine that there's a 99% chance the person giving us advice isn't as successful as Bessemer.

Our challenge as Founders is that we don't understand that the person foretelling our future is likely full of shit. We're in totally new territory, and we believe that since they do this, they must know everything about building startups — they don't.

Founders — we are the experts when it comes to our vision. It's our job to take all of that feedback and pick our own course on our own terms — not an investor's whims.

In Case You Missed It

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Founder Reputation (podcast) Reputation: we all have an understanding of the long-term & lasting impacts it has on your standing as a Founder, but how do we cultivate our reputation? Remember, your reputation is tough to build & very easy to destroy — so listen up!

Why Selling a Startup Brings No Validation There's a huge difference between getting some validation from a job well done and literally validating our ego solely from our startup.

About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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