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Have you got an amazing idea?

Is it something that will change the world?

Would you give up everything you have to turn your idea into a reality?

If you answered yes to those three questions, it’s likely that you have a bit of entrepreneurial blood in you. However, being entrepreneurial does not necessarily mean that you are business savvy, nor that you have the skills and practical expertise bring an idea to life.

This is where most people go wrong.

Often, people think that those three things are the only factors in raising capital, when investors barely consider them at all.

You don’t know what you don’t know

Admitting you need help is a difficult thing, and it becomes especially hard when you aren’t sure who or what to ask for. When all you have is an idea (even if you’re clear on that idea) it’s easy to become paralyzed by where to go next.

Seeking a patent for your idea may seem like the right move, and depending on the type of idea, you may be right. In 2015, there were almost 650,000 patent applications in the US, compared to only 300,000 in 2000, due in part to the rise of services like InventHelp.

However, patents are expensive, can take a long time to be issued, and even once you have one, they’re exceptionally hard to enforce if you have no entity with deep pockets behind you.

Finding mentors and advisors might also seem like a good idea, especially if you’re looking to put together a solid team to build your product, but you need to be clear on what these people will do for you. If they’re simply people who will answer an email once a year, they’re not very helpful.

If they will give you their time, money, and domain expertise (at a minimum), then they’re worth your time. But attracting people to an idea is difficult unless you’re a charismatic person, and keeping them around for very long is even harder.

The key to success

Before spending your money on filing a patent or your valuable time on finding mentors and advisors, you need to validate your product.

As an investor, the main question I want answered about a product is:

How will this make me money?

As the founder, therefore, before you ever come think of coming to me, you need to have that answered back, front, upside down and sideways. Prove your concept.

This means you are going to have to put real time and effort (and probably a lot of your own, your friends and your family’s money) into talking to people, gathering data, building a prototype, and building buzz about what you’re doing before getting to the phase where someone else will put substantial money behind you.

Coincidentally, this is why the majority of Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns fail — if you try to launch them before you’ve validated your product, then you’ll quickly find that people aren’t interested. Instead, wait until you’ve gotten a moderate amount of interest in the form of a mailing list and social followers before attempting to crowdfund.

Stop wasting time trying to get other people interested in putting money behind your idea; instead, build something for them to be interested in.

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