Founders: Ask Questions & Then SHUT UP and Listen


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If you have ever started a company you know that founders can’t do it alone. You can start working on the idea and get customer feedback but you can’t go very far with a new venture without help from others.

And, it is best if the help you are getting is from people smarter than you or who are coming from a different perspective. If you are solving a problem or creating a new product without different ideas from others who have different backgrounds than yourself, then it just won’t be as good. Any founder who has tried to get a product customer-ready without other people’s feedback turned out a product that was really only 50% of what it could be.

Talk To Smart People

Yes, I know you have the great idea and no one knows the customer’s problem like you do but you (the founder) are too close and can’t see all the opportunities or possibilities of your new product. Go find people who know more, or at least as much as you do, about your products or services. When you talk to other smart people they may bring up ideas that you can expand on to make your product exponentially better. It doesn’t matter where the kernel of the idea comes from, it just needs to be talked about and discussed in detail. That can help you visualize your product being used in ways that you may have not even thought about.

What I’ve Learned

I am bringing this up because I am doing exactly this with the new TV talk show I am working on. I have never done a TV show before. I have never written for a TV show before. I have never designed a TV show’s set before.  But, what I can do is look for people who have done all of these things before.  I can ask around and look on LinkedIn for people who have done some of these things much better than I can even imagine. I can meet with people who have been on talk shows and get the tips and tricks they used.Two tall chairs sit next to a cafe table in front of the Start IT Seattle logo which is on a TV screen

So, I am bringing all of these people together to fulfill the vision I have of helping startups in Seattle be better so they will have a bigger chance for success. My job is explain where I think the show should go and listen to the feedback. I have told the story many, many times over the last several months and I have learned a lot about what people want to see.

I’ve changed the segments. My original idea was not to have two founders compete with their one minute elevator pitches. I originally thought of showcasing one founder but, as I talked with others about the idea, people told me that they wanted to interact with the show. That’s the reason we have two founders competing; it allows the audience to engage and be part of the show.  

People have helped write for the show, designed the set, directed the show and I obviously had a crew of professionals to shoot in the studio. There are ten experienced people doing different jobs when we shoot the show.

I have been lucky to get smart people, who have done this before, to give me their ideas about how to create, deliver, and promote Start IT Seattle. I sit down and explain my vision and then shut up and listen to these smart people. The result, hopefully, is a great product.

Get Feedback to Improve Your Product

This should be true for all products or services…surround yourself with smart people, ask questions, listen to the feedback and do your best to incorporate what you hear into your vision. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but that is why you are there to guide the creation of the product.

My big lesson is…seek out smart people, ask them questions, and then SHUT UP and listen. Take their feedback and make your product better. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It isn’t. But it is possible.

Start IT Seattle premieres Saturday, December 12th at 7:30 p.m. on KIRO TV 7 and will be streaming on the KIRO website. Maveron’s Co-Founder Dan Levitan is my first guest. We’re sharing resources for startups on our Facebook page in in our Twitter feed @StartITSeattle. Additional parts of my interview with Dan that we didn’t have time to run on air will be available on our YouTube page. And, here’s the show’s video promo.

Paris Rally view with Mike

Paris January 7 2015


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Imagine you are in a crowd of people pushing you forward, all of the masses moving in the same direction. You are in a country where you don’t speak the language so you can’t understand the chant “Je suis Charlie” but you can somehow tell by the passion and emotion of the people that you can agree on their mission. This is where I found myself on January 11th. I was in the largest rally ever in France with 1.4 million other people.

I was staying the center of Paris from Jan 5th – Jan 14 for business with SendinBlue.com, an email, SMS and automated marketing company, when I found myself hugging a traffic light pole so I could see what was happening around me. What I experienced changed how I think about the simple freedom of expression and why people interact with or connect to an idea.

What if we couldn’t just post things on the internet that disagreed with another’s opinion?

In Paris helping SendinBlue


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I have been in Paris since last week helping a company www.sendinblue.com get operations started and start growing in the US. I was lucky enough to experience first hand the tragedy and the support for the Parisians. I am not sure how to describe it yet but I will do so in the following week or so. But I have to get some of these photos up so others can see what I saw today. I was staying 4 blocks from the center of the demonstrations today so I was able to get a up-close experience. Here are some photos. More to come. Here is a link to a New York Times Story 

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Startup Week Seattle Oct 20-24


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Our friends over at Seattle Startup Week have just announced that registration is open for their week-long event starting Monday, October 20 and ending Friday, October, 24. Join your community in a new type of conference that builds momentum and opportunity around entrepreneurship, led by entrepreneurs and hosted in the entrepreneurial spaces you love. Seattle Startup Week is a

Startup Grind Seattle

Startup Grind Seattle 2 years old


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It has been 26 months since I sent a fairly random email to the founder of Startup Grind, Derek Anderson, letting him know that I wanted to help out in Seattle (@seattlegrind). Since then the Seattle chapter has had 23 events, over 1,600 attendees and recorded 20+ hours of video of the fireside chats, from the likes of Dan Levitan,

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