Getting to "yes" in a world of "no"…


It’s been a strange few days here at the hub of Nanodome’s Evil Empire (I wanted to call it the “NanoPlex”, but our lawyers advised that another evil empire had got that basic meme pretty much locked down already, so best leave it alone).

Firstly, out of a clear blue external sky came (mostly by coincidence) a succession of opportunities to pitch… for which I didn’t immediately feel ready. Don’t get me wrong, I love pitching – show me an entrepreneur who doesn’t relish a platform to talk about his/her world-dominating money-making obsession and I’ll show you someone who’s probably not quite there yet. Basically, eating up the stage is one of the things we do best.

Secondly, out of an equally clear blue internal sky came an epiphany, a succession of ideas inviting me to pivot – new security camera-related devices to design and build, each offering new sales angles and opportunities in my core market. Basically, makeing what seems to many a very staid, dull-as-ditchwater industrial technology and (with a bit of luck) make it contemporary and almost hip (if you squint a bit).

Of course, while all this is going on I’m wading through the perpetual treacle of late project development – trying to fix up non-working prototype boards, fill all the empty gaps in the codebase, etc. So I’m basically being pulled hard in three different directions: big-picture finance changes, big-picture product epiphanies, and gritty small-picture stuff.

In many ways, this is the eternal startup ‘triage’ debate: to which of these three should entrepreneurs give priority? Getting the backing right, getting the intended product right, or executing what you’re already doing right? And I’m going to say straight away that trying for any kind of “doing all three” answer is just a cop-out: that option is very likely equivalent to saying “doing all three badly” – unless you just happened to have arrived here on a small craft from Krypton, you have an all-too-human amount of energy and attention.

One thing funded entrepreneurs often advise is to “take the money (in fact, take as much as you can), stay in the game“, which would seem to be a strong argument for making polishing the pitch the top priority. However, my strategy mentors would advise me to “aim for the sexiest, biggest marketplace“, which would seem to point to working on the product epiphany. Similarly, my sales mentors would advise me to “make the existing product work, make it shine“, because as a hardware company, getting your product demo working well changes everything (in particular valuation, as well as negotiating any kind of customer funding).

Naturally, the longer you spend caught in analysis paralysis about what to focus upon, the less of all three options you end up doing. As with hospital ERs, every situation is different, but for me right here right now, I’ve decided to think about adding a teaser slide on alternative products (to buy me time for getting that angle really right), and to continue working on my camera, hopefully to get the last few development issues ironed out in time for (Lord strike me down for even considering such foolishness) a live demo to investors.

Perhaps I’m crazy to choose that particular path, but to sell equity in my camera company, I ultimately don’t need Powerpoint even half as much I need a working camera.

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