Getting your idea out there is necessary for success
The other day I received notice of the launch of a new enterprise called Disabilities BizHub. It caught me by surprise, and the reason why is a lesson we should all remember.
My previous exposure to BizHub was a “practice pitch” event hosted last Fall by the Center for Social Enterprise Development. The purpose of this event was unlike most pitch opportunities because we intentionally wanted social entrepreneurs to get feedback from industry experts early in the process, well before they would be ready to pitch to potential investors and supporters. We asked participants to prepare seven slides, each focused on a specific key aspect of a successful start-up. They presented to a panel of experts in entrepreneurship, angel investing, social enterprise, and nonprofit management.
But that wasn’t the surprise. The surprise was that a phoenix rose out of the ashes. By that I mean, the presentation for BizHub did not go well. The panel raised many, many concerns. If the definition of success at a pitch event is to have everyone heap praise on a brilliant concept, then BizHub’s presentation was not a success.
But in reality, it was one of the greatest successes because it led to a reconsideration of the enterprise’s business focus which has now led to its actually launching. Here is what this entrepreneur wrote me when I responded to the notice of the opening:
“I was fortunate to present at last October’s social enterprise event. It has proven to be valuable since that evening! The Pitch event was crucial to how we now approach the project. You don’t know what you don’t know. The fee-based revenue stream advice from the panel was the biggest take away. I actually walked away that evening a bit devastated … you think that you have such an comprehensive plan and poof! Wrong. But, the learning curve has been invaluable.”
Yes, a debacle, but one that resulted in a key pivot that in turn brought the concept to life. I would call that a very successful pitch!
Too many potential entrepreneurs want to “get it right” before they take their concept public. Or they worry so much about intellectual property that they don’t test the waters of their ideas early in their development.
Any new business concept is highly likely to go through many changes or “pivots” along the path from concept to start-up to sustained growth. The best path is to make those changes as early in the process as possible. And sometimes the best changes arise from the harsh reality that often comes from exposing your idea to outside experts.
There are many ways to get exposed to constructive “harsh reality”. BizHub’s transformation came from a special pitch session designed specifically for ideas at the concept stage. It can also come from intense boot-camps to push the feasibility of your ideas and the likelihood of a market. Or it can come from workshops with others that are working on developing their ideas. That is why the Center for Social Enterprise Development has identified a range of programs so the entrepreneur can choose the type of exposure that he/she is ready for.
But the most important thing to do is to expose your ideas early. Without that, you are less likely to identify the changes you need and you may identify them too late to be able to turn them into a success.