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Small tip for breaking the young white male hacker mold

From a basically unrelated 2004 article on security expert Gavin de Becker...

"...I recommend that before you meet someone for the first time, you send them a bio. You say, "I look forward to our meeting tomorrow afternoon, and so that you'll be more familiar with my background, I'm sending you some general information." When you arrive, they say, "Oh, that's what a security expert looks like." That way, they fit you into their projection instead of the alternative. If a guy shows up and says, "I'm the bomb detection expert," and you judge him based on what he's wearing, how old he is, how tall he is, how he looks, how he speaks—he now doesn't fit your central casting idea. But if a person is sent a bio first, we will fit [the subject of the bio] into our projection."

I'm not going to wade into the "who gets funded and who doesn't debate" any deeper than to say this:

We know that investors pattern match, and also make quick judgements.  Their job is to size up a plan, and a team, very quickly.  Even unconsciously, the best of folks tend to have an idea of what an investable team "looks like".

Think you're immune?  Fine, I'll send my 95 year old grandmother in to pitch your firm for her semiconductor startup.  If you can tell me that you wouldn't make a snap judgement when she shuffles in with her walker, then you're just not human.  It happens.

Knowing that, however, puts us in a position to fight against that.  One thing that I don't think people give investors enough credit for is how easily perceptions can be changed--not in everyone, but I think most investors are just as reasonably open-minded as they are quick to judge.  

So, if you tell them ahead of time about why you're the right team, they'll find a way to match who they shake hands with and what they see in the first 15 seconds with the bio they already got. 

I know, because it happens to me all the time.  Nine times out of ten, someone intros me to a potential fund investor as a connector, someone who knows everyone, etc.  So, when I walk in with jeans and sneakers, immediately people construct an image of me as a guy who is mixing it up with startups on their turf.

If someone just said, "Here's an investor, you should meet him," they're going to take one look at how I dress and say, "Who's this knucklehead?"   

Tell them who you are before the decide for themselves--or make sure the person who intros you knows exactly what to trump up about YOU, not about the idea.  


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