Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #181
Can you be an entrepreneur without building a startup?
Duke just celebrated graduation weekend, and the program I teach in — Innovation & Entrepreneurship — had a reception for our graduating seniors. As I was saying my final goodbyes to former students, all but one of the dozens of graduates I spoke with were preparing for “normal” jobs. This struck me as interesting.
At first glance, someone might wonder why more entrepreneurship students aren’t building startups, but I’m pretty sure this type of thinking is wrong. The words entrepreneurship and startup aren’t synonyms. In fact, I’m a firm believer that you can be entrepreneurial without building a company. For example, my university has ~23,000 employees, which means I’m little more than a small cog in a big machine, but I still consider myself entrepreneurial.
The same is true for all of my students (and for you, too!). Be careful not to equate being an entrepreneur with building startups. After all, the definition of entrepreneur isn’t: “Someone who launches companies.” The classical definition of entrepreneur is actually something more along the lines of: “A person who shifts resources from areas of low economic yield into areas of higher economic yield.” That kind of work doesn’t require a new company. If anything, building new companies is often counter to the goal of improving economic yield.
Remember this distinction if, like my graduating students, you ever find yourself in the midst of having to make an important career choice. For example, maybe your startup failed and you’re looking for a job. Or maybe you’re currently building a startup and someone just offered you a “dream job” at their company. Whatever the case, don’t assume that not building a company somehow makes you any less of an entrepreneur. It doesn’t.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t about building startups. It’s about helping solve important problems. You can — and should — be doing that from anywhere.
Are you accidentally succumbing to this childish mistake that lots of entrepreneurs make? Be careful… it can have big consequences.
Great pitch decks are like works of art, and, in this article, I’m going to teach you how to become a pitch deck artist.
Office Hours Q&A
I thought your article about creating beautiful startup pitch decks and treating them like art was very interesting. But I also feel like aesthetical looks are not the most important consideration when it comes to building an effective pitch deck.
I’d love to see an article from you about what kind of content is necessary for an effective pitch deck. Would you write one of those? I bet I speak for a lot of other people in saying that is something we would love to see from you.
After my article about beautiful pitch decks went viral, I’ve been getting lots of similar emails and comments asking me to write an article about what kind of content to include in a pitch deck.
I started writing that article and quickly realized it’s much easier said than done. Or rather, in this case, much easier asked for than delivered.
The problem with writing any sort of definitive article about what to include in pitch decks is that pitch deck content is highly dependent on who and what you’re pitching. In contrast, the article I wrote covers aesthetic issues that aren’t as subjective. For example, having less text on a slide and more white space is objectively better, which is why I could confidently make that suggestion.
None of this means I’m not going to write an article about what kind of content belongs in pitch decks. Clearly, that’s a topic people want help with, and I’m happy to help as best I can. However, writing that article is going to take a little time.
For now, there’s one definitive piece of advice I can give about content for a pitch deck, and it’s this:
Investors don’t care what your product does nearly as much as they care about how your product makes money, so be sure your fundraising pitch deck focuses on your business, not your product.
That’s the number one content mistake I see in fundraising pitch decks. Entrepreneurs spend most of their time describing features rather than the business. But investors don’t care about your features. They’re investing in your business because your business is the thing that’s going to determine whether or not they make money.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!