Héctor Ramos

Advisers, Stop Being Nice

This is hard to say, but I wish they had believed in me less. Encouraged me less. Supported me less. I wish someone, anyone, had put a stop to my foolish ideas. I’m incredibly confident and stubborn. I believe I can do anything. So additional support is kind of wasted on me. What I really needed is someone that could break through my confidence and tell me straight that I was being an idiot.

I stumbled across this post by Jason Freedman in this week’s Silicon Valley Startup Digest. Nice timing, given that I spent this past weekend advising groups of entrepreneurs who were building new products during Startup Weekend Puerto Rico. I listened to a variety of ideas, both good and bad, and I think I could have done a better job of letting them know when an idea just wasn’t good enough.

Its hard to look someone in the eye and tell them their idea sucks. You can see their passion, you want them to get inspired and build amazing things, so you hesitate to shoot them down. Since the startup culture in Puerto Rico is still so young, I think I’m being too careful as to not scare people away. I may also be tilting to the nice side, since I’m also working on a variety of projects, some of which have failed, some of which are still to take root, so who am I to tell others what works and what doesn’t?

Honest, critical feedback is what really separates an entrepreneur from someone who is just getting started. You can see it during the startup pitch competitions and Y Combinator office hours, you may have even experienced it yourself while pitching an angel investor or VC (as rare as they are here in Puerto Rico). A good adviser can identify pain points and potential issues as soon as you start talking about your idea. A quick 5 minute conversation with such an adviser can turn around your whole idea and save you from working for weeks on something that is not going to work out. As Jason states in his post, the market is not going to be nice to you.