Founders, beware of Happy Ears

David Cohen, co-founder of Techstars, has a ton of amazing advice for founders. One of my favorite bits from him is about Happy Ears.

What’s that, you ask?

It is what most founders have when they are talking to investors.

Instead of hearing what the investor is saying, founders hear what they want to hear. Instead of NO, they hear MAYBE, and instead of MAYBE, they hear YES!

For example, when an angel investor says she is interested, it doesn’t mean she is in.

Interest ≠ Commitment

So how do you get from interest to a commitment? Two things. First, you need to explicitly ask for an investment and clarify the conditions. That is, you ask the investor what conditions need to be in place for her to be committed.

Secondly, you need to confirm that you heard the investor correctly. David Cohen teaches founders to do so-called reflective listening. This is a simple communication technique where the founder says/writes back to the investor what they understood was agreed on.

Reflective listening avoids misunderstandings.

Being on the same page with the investors and having clarity is better than running around with happy ears, and ending up disappointed in the end.

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Alex Iskold View All →

Engineer, Immigrant. Vegan. 3x Founder, Managing Partner @2048vc. Previously ran @techstars in NYC. I write #startuphacks: .

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