Attracting investment is such a fundamental part of entrepreneurship that it’s easy to think about it with less nuance than one should. After all, the job of investors is to invest. And their incentive to do so is clear – they’re looking for a big financial return on their investment. So what’s to over-think? If you have a good idea, investors will invest in it. Right?
Not necessarily. In his invaluable new book Backable, tech entrepreneur Suneel Gupta notes that lots of people have good and even great ideas, but the ones who persuade investors to back them “aren’t just brilliant. They’re backable.”
As Suneel explains, being backable isn’t just about lighting up a boardroom with your confidence or charisma. Instead, it’s about conveying your idea with such conviction that others come to share your belief in it too – and also believe you are the person to make that idea a reality.
Suneel, whom I first met when he was making the shift from politics to Silicon Valley, speaks from experience. After product development roles at Mozilla and Groupon, Suneel successfully co-founded Rise Labs, which created the award-winning telehealth app Rise and was ultimately acquired by One Medical.
According to Suneel, though, he wasn’t instinctively backable. Instead, the skills and attributes that ultimately gave him this quality were things he only identified, practiced, and mastered over time. Now, he teaches a course on becoming backable at Harvard. With this new book, he’s created a practical and illuminating guide everyone can use to become more backable.
And I do mean everyone, not just entrepreneurs.
In my own first book,The Start-up of You, my co-author Ben Casnocha and I made the case that even people who aren’t planning to create their own companies should think more entrepreneurially about their own careers as a venture that they invest in and grow over time.
Since we published our book nearly a decade ago, the changes we’ve seen in the world of work have increased both the need and the opportunities to approach your career with this entrepreneurial mindset. Very few people climb the corporate ladder at a single company over the course of decades anymore, and these days, more and more people generate income through multiple platforms and marketplaces, whether that’s Airbnb, Etsy, YouTube, Uber, Patreon, Roblox, Convoy, or countless others.
The pandemic and its massive impact on the economy has only amplified this new dynamic. Even as near-term outlooks improve with the arrival of new vaccines, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty regarding which industries, companies, and job categories will thrive in whatever our new normal ends up becoming. So it’s absolutely the time for everyone to be thinking even more entrepreneurially about their careers – deepening their networks, developing competitive edges that increase their value in the marketplace, and pivoting to new opportunities as they arise.
A key part of this includes finding people willing to invest in you and your career – whether that means serving as a mentor, incorporating you into their networks, teaching you new skills, contributing to your crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter, etc. This is why Suneel’s Backable arrives at such a fortuitous time. In it, Suneel lays out seven key steps you can take to greatly improve your ability to persuade others to invest in you and your ideas.
While the new world of work means we can often operate as “free agents,” it also puts an increasing emphasis on networks and alliance. In the networked age, solo players invariably lose out to teams, and the most successful professionals are the ones who have developed strong personal networks they can draw upon when necessary for information, collaborators, and, yes, backers of various kinds.
In the end, of course, life itself is a team game. And that’s why learning how to become more backable is not just an entrepreneurial skill, or a career development skill, but a life skill. Use the techniques that Sunil describes in Backable, and you’ll be well on your way to realizing your visions and having a more interesting life.