Answering the Hard Questions

September 23, 2011
Michael Hayes
Michael Hayes

Co-Founder of RookieOven and Add Jam

When getting any startup off the ground (regardless of the industry, tech or not) you will inevitably have to deal with some hard questions. By answering the hard questions I don’t mean telling me the 333rd Fibonacci number off the top of your head or finding a new prime number, I’m talking about the ones regarding your startup that make you squirm.

answering hard questionsHard questions will effect any startup but in the tech space it could be a concern over privacy, being legitimate, data security or competitors already in the space to name a few examples. To give an example from my experience, when developing, the safe social network, when telling anyone about the business I can guarantee you I would always be asked at least one of the following:

  • How will you keep kids safe?
  • How will you be able to scale?
  • What if a child gets bullied on your service?
  • How can you be sure the ‘child’ is in fact a child?

All reasonable questions and questions that everyone would ask, that included our users (ie the people you need to make the product into a business). The thing is with dizeo, we worked our socks off to have procedures and failsafes to ensure all users on the site would be as safe as we could possible make them online. For each of the hard questions we had a rock solid excellent answer. Granted dizeo was a failure (we did attract users but nowhere near enough to sustain ourselves) but the whole team were able to walk into any room and talk about our product knowing there was an answer to every hard questions about the product and the business.

Anyone who would ask us one of these questions was just another opportunity to tell people about the fantastic fallbacks we had in place when things would inevitably go wrong. It was key we had that ability to stick up for our product and its was great to hear the doubts and queries from anyone who would care to share an opinion because these are the exact same doubts our users would have.

It’s also inevitable another set of stakeholders will be asking these questions – the investors. If someone is going to put their hand in their own pocket, risk their own hard cash on something they want to know every in and out of the product, the sector and the team. This is where the team can shine by showing supreme knowledge and passion. Knowing your stuff inside out will mean you can never be flummoxed even when they come to asking the hard questions.

I had first hand experience of people being asked hard questions on Wednesday. This week Jamie McHale (who regularly contributes guest posts to RookieOven) and my ex-co-founder Finbarr Taylor pitched at an event as part of Social Media Week. Both guys excelled not by just having a great product but by being able to answer most of the hard questions. The fact the guys found it difficult to answer some hard questions wasn’t a bad thing, the questions being asked were ones they hadn’t considered. These questions are the very same questions that will be being asked by the users of their product or potential investors. The guys left with a better clue on where to work on and what was needing more attention. It was a help not a hinderance to be asked the hard questions.

So the point of all this? If you have your idea, brilliant now get out there and get feedback. If someone critiques an area of your business don’t get upset get energised! Fix that fault or correct them on how you have overcome the concern because I can assure you that person wont be alone in having that hard question.

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