On Honesty in Startupland

Jul 05, 2011

My experience in NYC Tech over the past year has been highlighted by
great conversations with people of all backgrounds. I’ve been lucky to
get support and feedback from various people in the community.
Entrepreneurship can be alonely
journey
, but
with a supportive ecosystem it can be manageable.

The issue of honesty does come up frequently in these discussions with
New York tech entrepreneurs. Are we giving each other honest feedback on
the projects and ideas we are working on? Im worried that we arent. In
private discussions, I hear people giving candid displays of concern
about other startups in their community, while publicly cheerleading the
efforts of the same companies. This is usually done in a manner
reminiscent of high school gossip. Its unfortunate, since there are
startup founders who need to hear honest feedback in order for their
companies to ever be successful.

Much of the issue here is how people take feedback. Is the founder ready
and prepared to hear honest/harsh criticism of what they are doing? Will
it crush a part of their spirit and make it difficult for them to move
on? Is that a bad thing? My contention is that if you are really in the
game to win it, you will appreciate the advice that will get you to
success faster, however harsh it may be.

@AlexisTryon'sThoughts

Our goal in continuing to develop a strong startup ecosystem hinges on
our ability to incubate and support good ideas, and helping each other
get rid of the bad ones. We should all be testing out one anothers
startups, so that we can help provide honest feedback for others to use
to chase after real traction and success, rather than vanity numbers,
fake accolades, and tech press stardom.

How harsh is too harsh? Are feedback/call-outs likeMatt Mireless post
on David Tisch
(here
)
orBetaBeats (tounge in cheek) dismantling of Hashable
(here
)
helpful to the community? Sometimes I feel that I am in a happy,
positive feedback loop when talking to people at meetups, while the real
truth lingers underneath the surface of conversation. We need to always
accept and appreciate varying viewpoints on the current state of affairs
in the community (handling bad actors is
anotherpost).


We should strive to find ways of giving feedback that is fully honest
yet tactful in delivery. Nobody does this better than Paul Graham. His
office hours at TechCrunch were incredible (if you haven’t watched this,
I highly recommend you do so now:
http://tcrn.ch/PaulGrahamOfficeHours)

@LarryChiang

You can see why he has been so successful in helping to inspire ideas
like Reddit. As I said in the comments on TechCrunch, he gently puts
down bad ideas and helps inspire good ones. The same kind of spirit can
(sometimes) be seen on theAsk
HN
orShow
HN
sections of Hacker News.

An example local to NYC was a discussion I witnessed about Hashable. As
a passionate user myself, I understand the value of the service and how
it can evolve in the future. I listened as another user broke down in
full detail to John Exley (a Hashable intern) in detail why the service
was not up to par with her needs. John gave an impassioned plea as to
why he thinks the service is of great value to him now and in the
future, and they went back and forth for a while, each giving insight
into their world. It was a great conversation that helped all three of
us fully understand what was needed for Hashable to succeed. These are
the conversations I hope can be welcomed and happen frequently in our
community.

How can we create supportive feedback loops that encourage entrepreneurs
in the right ways? Lets aim to give as much open feedback as we can to
the peers we share a community with. As Dean Barrow said earlier this
week,a little feedback goes a long
way
.

Discuss on Hacker News


(Thanks to David Kay, Deepen
Parikh
, and Nick
Gavronsky
for their edits and
suggestions)

Frank Denbow

Founder. Dancer. Entrepreneur.

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