Lie to me 🔗

Or the “lie to me” method.

In just a few minutes, I can tell you if a start-up will make it or not.

All I need to do is to have an interview with its founder.

And ask him one question: “Why?

And i keep asking him “why” again and again until I feel him.

I need to feel the person I have in front of me. I need to know if he or she has the right profile to carry out the project to its term. Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park. You can have a great idea, but you will fail if you don’t have the skills.

We know the qualities of a good entrepreneur: He is a leader, determined, and able to get up at the slightest setback.

For me, they can be split in two categories.

The first entrepreneur wants to do something with his life and aims to give it meaning. The second has no other aspiration than to make as much money as possible. The second is generally a good talker. He only has in mind the desire to impress the gallery. What motivates him is to see himself one day maneuvering his boat with coconut trees and sandy beaches in the background.

Scene from the Great Gatsby (2013)

What drives the first entrepreneur is immediately apparent in the way he talks, in the expression on his face, and the tone of his voice. He will not speak about his product. For him, it is (almost) secondary. His pitch is not a sales pitch. He does not sell for the sake of selling something. What he wants is to achieve his purpose. The product is only the fuel that will get him to his destination.

He will tell you why he decided to take the step. He will tell you what motivates him. In short, his passion. And he will talk about it sincerely, using words that resonate.

Psychologist Paul Ekman has demonstrated that facial expressions are universal and not the product of a culture. His work inspired the American television series “lie to me” on detecting lies through body language and speech.

You see when an entrepreneur is passionate. You feel it. Passion is difficult to fake. On the other hand, someone who tries to please you to get your favor and especially your money will betray his true intentions in his expressions and language.

The good liar will be able to fool you for a while, but not for long if you pay attention to his body language and how he expresses himself.

And also, if you look at his business plan.

The business plan will reveal his true intentions. All you have to do is to read between the lines.

Entrepreneur 1 will focus on his vision, on the “why” of his project, while Entrepreneur 2 will focus on the “how”.

Entrepreneur 1 will build a culture that will mirror and transcend his vision.

The second, on the other hand, will focus on his EBITDA.

Why is the culture so critical? Because it will allow entrepreneur 1 to build a solid team, which will be able to face the challenges and trials that will inevitably mark his journey. It is the “why” that will bind his team together and make it stand during challenging times.

Bernhard Schroeder

Give me a great startup team with even a mediocre idea over a weak team with a great idea every time. Because a great team will know when to pivot and they will trust each other to execute. A weak team will simply fail.

Closings thoughts 🔗

If there is one thing that every VC must pay attention to, it is the Why. Why the entrepreneur does what he does. From this “why” will come the culture, which, in turn, will unify the team. It is this culture that will enable the team to react and adapt to the slightest setback.