How one entrepreneur got Mark Cuban to invest in his startup
It didn't take a visit to the Shark Tank for Ryan Beckland, co-founder and CEO of the digital health company Validic, to get the attention of billionaire investor Mark Cuban. All it took was a three-line email in which Beckland told Cuban what Validic does, the problem the company solves, and its traction. "Four hours later," Beckland said, "we had an investment."
Not every startup can score such a quick and noteworthy investment, but Beckland said his technique is repeatable. "Recognizing the audience is a big part of it," he said. "People are busy. If you approach them in a way that respects them, that's the best way to do it."
Beckland has made other worthwhile contacts by sending LinkedIn emails to people at large companies, telling them what he's working on, and asking for 20 minutes of feedback. "People want to support entrepreneurs," he said. "It's been the most surprising thing. I wouldn't have thought that an executive vice president at a hospital would give [me] the time of day."
Simply asking for feedback -- and nothing else -- can make potential contacts more likely to respond, Beckland said. "If you talk to people like they're people and not like they're a cash register," he said, "that's almost uniformly met with a positive response."
Here are other entrepreneurial insights from Beckland:
Build, and then fundraise -- Entrepreneurs often think they need funding before they can build their product or service, Beckland said. "That's not the way it works in the real world," he said. This frustrates funders, Beckland said, who want to see a product, a team, and customers before shelling out investment funds. "Investors don't want to give you money just because you're smart," he said.
Don't over-customize -- If a potential customer says your product would be great if it had a host of other features, Beckland said, you haven't found the right product yet. There's a temptation among entrepreneurs, he said, to customize the product to each individual. But, Beckland said, you'll never find a scalable product if you have to customize it every time.
Just ask -- How do you get to your ideal business model? There's no magic to it, Beckland said. Understand your customer, he said, and ask how much they're willing to pay for your solution. "You don't have to be shy. You can just ask them directly," Beckland said. "Customers want to pay you for things that add value."