Small Talk: Elephants and entrepreneurs

November 13, 2009

Mark Suster’s blog – “Both Sides of the Table” – has become a hotspot for people seeking an insider’s glimpse into the world of venture capital investing.

This week Suster wrote about the things in entrepreneur pitches that give VCs pause when considering whether or not to invest. Suster likens it to the elephant-in-the-room adage, more specifically: “those things that the VC would automatically be thinking about when you’re speaking but he/she may not immediately ask you about either for legal reasons or out of courtesy.”

Suster’s blog goes on to list some real-life examples of pitches he’s heard with Elephant-sized problems, such as the founder is no longer with the company or having Google as a prime competitor. Suster advises entrepreneurs to deal with their issues before they seek funding, as they will inevitably be addressed in their meetings with VCs. Suster says it’s better to be pre-emptive in this regard.

“There is only one way to deal with your Elephants – head on. Don’t pretend it isn’t in the room,” writes Suster. “Know in advance what you’re going to say and don’t wait for the VC to bring it up. When VC’s bring up Elephants they feel like they’re ‘catching you out’ and you’ve lost the high ground.”


If crooner Frank Sinatra was singing about small businesses, he might start off with this Associated Content story by Kevin Hagen that appeared on the Huffington Post about some of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make and advice on how to avoid them. Among the mistakes listed are: lack of planning, borrowing too much, spending too much and insufficient capital. We’re pretty sure most of these mistakes could be avoided by better planning, but the list may serve as a good refresher for would-be small business owners.

A more interesting article is “6 Business Mistakes I Hope You Make”, where author Michael Noker details some of the errors he made as an 18-year-old entrepreneur running his own Web-design company. Noker said he started his business for the wrong reason – to pay his tuition – which was expensive, so instead he ended up getting student loans to pay for it and then “had no real pressure or desire to get started, so I never really did.”


These days having a decent website is critical for any business, but especially a small one that doesn’t have the same brand power or marketing reach as a large company. This post in Whitney Keyes’s Seattle PI blog by Web designer Erik Parkin serves as a good how-to checklist for small businesses looking to create a stronger online presence.

Parkin, who says he has been making websites for four years, admits it frustrates him “when the client says, ‘Just make it look cool,’ because that doesn’t tell me enough information to build them a website that they can actually use. Your website needs to represent you, not the designer.”


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Actually the most expensive mistake for anyone is that he never even starts the business.
If he starts and fails, at the very least, he learns.
If he never even starts, he will never succeed.

Posted by scheng1 | Report as abusive

I heard these ideas and more from speakers at yesterday’s New York Entrepreneur Week (Nov 16-21). GREAT speakers. Live video link with great audio.

Posted by Louise Holmes | Report as abusive

I have been building small business websites for 4 years and running my own online business sites for five. The most common problem is that people think that if you do some nifty SEO tricks, they will automatically/ immediately get at the top of Google without having to do anything. This must be from all the SEO hype out there.

Posted by Ev Miles – online business cookbook | Report as abusive

One of the biggest killers of success for entrepreneurs is when they go out and they pick up one project, and two projects, and three projects, and four projects. And five projects.

Posted by Chris Rugh | Report as abusive