Lincoln Startup Week is taking place this week in Lincoln, Nebraska, including visits and contributions from Paul Singh of Results Junkies.
Singh has made over 2000 investments and is a nationally recognized speaker on investing, early-stage companies, and entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Singh’s basic approach is to travel around the country and speak in places that are not Silicon Valley or New York. He speaks at events like Lincoln startup week (his previous stop was in Fort Wayne, Indiana) and discovers cool, local startups that others simply don’t know are there because they never make stops in Lincoln, Peoria, or Oklahoma City.
This wasn’t Singh’s first time visiting Lincoln. He’s included the capital city in previous tours and has one company that originally in his portfolio that hales from Lincoln––Own Local.
Own Local was started by Lloyd Armbrust II, and moved to Austin, Texas in 2010. The company participated in YCombinator and according to Pitchbook, has raised more than $5 million to date (most recently in 2015) and has more than forty employees.
Singh provided multiple presentations, office hours, and Wednesday answered questions at a well-attended One Million Cups session in the Barnyard in Fuse Coworking and Nebraska Global’s building. The event had more than seventy attendees.
During the session, Singh answered a wide-ranging assortment of questions regarding his own funding experiences, his current travels, and about customer acquisition being critical for startups. As part of this discussion, Singh also answered a question about mentoring.
Singh believes that mentoring is a critical component of any entrepreneurial ecosystem, and had some specific insights.
“Founders need to have recent experience––not breadth of experience,” said Singh.
He provided an illustration of this statement stating that a new business-to-consumer (B2C) founder dependent on Facebook advertising needs access to someone that understands deeply the ins and outs of Facebook advertising. Thus, a person who managed a $10,000 a month Facebook advertising campaign as recently as last month is more valuable than a thirty-year veteran of the advertising industry.
This type of recency bias allows founders to talk to people who have solved a similar problem to the one that they are facing. Singh stated that “finding someone who has solved a similar problem last month or last year is really important.”
He went on to say that this might mean that finding a well-respected founder of a successful company may be less important to a new firm’s success than finding a frontline person doing the work necessary to succeed.
With this as a precedent, Singh went on to say that new companies should be focused on sales and customers. And thus, all mentors for early stage customers should be able to provide both operational and network value to companies that they are mentoring when it comes to finding sales.
“Mentors should only be about sales in the beginning,” said Singh.
This sales focus, and the idea of finding customers, was one of the critical takeaways of Singh’s talks in Lincoln this week.
He emphasized the importance of entrepreneur’s leveling up in selling products and raising money. The idea of leveling up in Singh’s discussion was that entrepreneurs should build a product/pitch that is good enough to make people from 500 miles away pay attention. In focusing on getting people from a distance to pay attention, Singh claims that pitches will get better and will be less based on existing relationships and more based on quality.