What I Have Learned Building My Startup



The journey to building a startup seems daunting and unachievable to many. For me, it was very much the opposite. Over the past few months, since creating the first prototype and concept to the actual public release of our beta app, it’s been quite a journey, to say the least. Pitching to over 100 people within that time span, only a few truly believed enough in the idea and even fewer decided to invest with their own capital during our first round of funding at Canvs+.

In this post, I wanted to share some advice, as well as a few tips I learned first hand by interacting with so many people from all walks of life – many of whom I can now call friends, mentors, investors, etc.

#1 Have a Conversation

For many people, a pitch session is a rehearsed performance that is to be repeated over and over again until someone finally likes the idea and wants to learn more. What I found is that people are just people and they want you to have a genuine conversation about yourself, your idea, your background and most importantly, what makes you so passionate about your startup.

During pitch meetings, some people to whom we were presenting would even say, “hold off on the presentation deck and just tell me how are you doing?” That to me was shocking to hear, at first – that someone wanted to know more about me and my day. But thinking back, that’s the best way to analyze an investment opportunity or an entrepreneur – by learning more about the entrepreneur’s personality and background rather than merely the idea or startup itself. So, over time, I became better at slowing down and having a “conversation” with that angel investor, venture capitalist etc.

#2 Ask for Recommendation and Harsh/Honest Feedback

It’s hard enough to schedule a meeting with a very high profile individual, so why not make the most of that opportunity? This doesn’t mean asking for investment or a job/internship in the first meeting, before you have even gotten to know them. This goes back to point #1 about having a conversation.

If you are pitching a startup, ask how well you did with your elevator pitch or presentation overall. Genuine feedback will always help you refine not only your product, but you as an entrepreneur. I can personally attest to this, as I have improved upon my pitching skills and making my presentations more concise. So what if that feedback was harsh? Don’t take it personally. Instead, make a mental note and see if it truly had merit.

Towards the end of your meeting, ask for a recommendation of or an introduction to someone or a few people you should speak with for more feedback or advice. Use that opportunity to connect with others at the office where you are meeting. If you are meeting someone at a coffee shop, then simply offer to come in to the office at another time to meet others, if appropriate.

 #3 Connect with Humble and Down to Earth People. Period.

Over the past few years, I have gotten to know a lot of people from various industries and backgrounds and here is what I have found. People who show compassion, are down to earth, humble and genuinely interested in helping others make the best mentors, investors, friends etc. Trust me on this one. It’s important to surround yourself with people who care and who don’t let their success get to their head. They care about their family and friends before making money. They choose to spend time helping the next generation get ahead by giving advice and telling stories of how they succeeded themselves. They are approachable and genuinely interested in learning about you before telling you about themselves. Find such people within your lives, because they are absolutely there.

What’s Next for Canvs+?

As I am writing this blog post, I know that we have a lot of work to do in order to achieve the vision I have set for Canvs+. It’s a long-term commitment for sure (just as is any true loving relationship). I also know a few select beta members, ranging from students to startups to large corporations, have believed in the idea so much and are providing continuous feedback to help us iterate and improve the app further. That means the world to me, as I see what was once a simple drawing in Adobe Illustrator turn into an interactive Visual Project Management App that people are actually using. It’s like watching a baby grow up…

As a fortune cookie once said, “winners make their own luck.” Remember to always think positively, be humble and believe in yourself before asking others to believe in you and your idea.

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by mrsdkrebs


About the author: Arjun Rai

Arjun is the founder + ceo of Canvs+ (canvs.co), a visual project management startup in New York City backed by angel investment. He is known to attend over 4-5 networking events per week with the famous Canvs+ shirt on. Ask him about his, “Arjun Jokes” too!

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