Are you funded?

23 04 2008

I’m making my way around some Web 2.0 Expo events this week. Last night, I went to a smaller mixer but that had some very interesting people running around. It’s an inverse proportion much of the time.

David Hansson at 37Signals writes, Are you sure you want to be in San Francisco? He also gives one of the more tremendous talks that balks at the raise lots of money, ride the big way, and sell out mentality that motivates many in Silicon Valley.

One piece of unsolicited advice when emerging yourself in the tech scene: don’t ask startup people whether they are funded so early on in a conversation. I do understand that funding quickly asserts a level of validation. However, I find it a major turnoff.

Not only that, but most interested people probe about ideas. Most VCs I’ve spoken to acknowledge and respect an entrepreneur whose answer is “not yet, but when we’re ready, I’d love to talk.”

Go one step beyond, and if funding or press attention (another supposed source of creditability) were your main criteria, you’re going to miss the diamonds in the rough. Look at ideas, look at the people by all means, but use your head in judging. So while I mostly argue for the merits of the Valley and balk a little when the “raising money is bad” rhetoric goes too far, it’s not greed and ambition, it’s the free flow of ideas that really moves SF and the Valley.

Maybe I’m ranting because we’re privately funded and bootstrapped, and the follow up to that answer “Oh, well that’s a better way of doing things” seems like a fake answer. And maybe down the road I’d swagger and say “yes, so and so funded us.”

But I don’t think so. My answer would be a vague “yes” and I’d move along to someone more interested in the merits of ideas rather than relying on external validation.

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