- “I already have a meeting at lunch.” This isn’t a lie if you consider talking to people on the bench between shifts a “meeting.” What can I say? One of my great joys in life is playing hockey, and some of the best games are at lunch time during the week. So if I tell you this lie, it probably means I’m playing hockey that day.
- “I think what you’re doing is interesting, but it’s not something for us.“ The first half of this statement is the lie; the second is the rock-solid truth. I tell this lie when I’m presented with an idea that I don’t think can succeed. I use it because I am chicken shiitake/soft-hearted. The good influence of my wife prevents me from being a total orifice and crushing people by saying, “You have a stupid idea.”In the past I experimented with telling people why I thought their idea wouldn’t succeed, but this only caused long, often hostile, conversations. To this day, I struggle with how to say “no” to entrepreneurs in a respectful way without giving reasons and getting into a long discussion. I cannot provide an explanation every time, or I’ll never have time to blog. :-) Please provide suggestions as comments.
- “You need me more than I need you.” In order to become a venture capitalist, one has to swear that you believe this. It’s called the Hypocrite’s Oath. We may never actually utter this lie, but it permeates every aspect of our existence: what we drive, where we eat, how we dress, where our kids go to school, and especially how we communicate with entrepreneurs.It’s total bull shiitake. We need entrepreneurs as much, or more, as entrepreneurs need us. We need you to help us raise our next fund; we need you to pay for our lifestyles; and we need you to reinforce our delusions that we add value to companies and “make” kings.
- “It’s a pleasure to speak here today.” Many speakers say this when they begin their talk. Sometimes I do too. The truth is that it’s probably not a pleasure because I had to fly out on Sunday to get to the East Coast for a Monday morning speech at 8:00 am Eastern (but 5:00 am for my body). But you can’t start a speech by saying, “It sucks to be here” and expect to be successful. :-)However, this isn’t a total lie because about thirty seconds into a speech, the audience lifts me up and takes me to “the zone.” Then, no matter how far I flew, how little sleep I’ve had, and how shiitakey I feel, I go to a place that is outside my body, and a force takes control. At that point, speaking is truly a pleasure–as I hope my audiences can tell.
- “I can help you partner with Apple.” If I ever tell you this, just kick me in the nuts. I’ve been out of Apple for nine years, so I have few connections there. When Apple comes out with new stuff, I stand in line and pay full retail just like anyone else. When my computers break, I wait in line at the Genius Bar. I certainly don’t have the juice to make any kind of big deal happen with Apple. (I wonder if Jack Welch has to buy his light bulbs at Home Depot.)
- “I don’t care about making money with my blog.” I wish that I could be a full-time blogger. I love blogging because you get to be writer, editor, designer, publisher, and sales manager. It’s like being a mini media company–GuySpace? You set your own editorial agenda, deadlines, and ad rates. How cool is that? You find me a blogger who says he doesn’t care about making money blogging, and I’ll show you a liar.
- “It’s not the money.” While we’re on the topic of money, I tell this lie when asked to write, speak, or consult for low fees. But it is the money. I have four children and a wife, and I hate to travel away from them. If a for-profit organization wants me, it has to pay. I don’t care how prestigious the event is or what beautiful resort it’s in (all I’m going to do is answer email from my room and speak anyway), I simply won’t do it.I’m more of a pushover for not-for-profits; the test in these cases is whether the organization is changing the world, and I believe I have a moral obligation to help out. But no cause is more important to me than my family.Incidentally, ingenuity does count. For example, I’ve spoken for vastly reduced sums during the NCAA Frozen Four in Columbus, Ohio and Milwaukee, Wisconsin as well as the Heritage Classic in Edmonton. Hear that St. Louis?
- “We don’t have a position at Garage or in our portfolio, but I’ll keep you in mind.” This is a lie of duration. At that instant in time if I can think of a relevant position, then I help. But I don’t have the bandwidth/disk space/chip speed to keep the candidate in mind very long. Usually I refer people to a portfolio company of ours called SimplyHired which aggregates about five million job openings. The interesting thing about this lie is that many people are very thankful for even this response; I think it’s because most recipients never respond to such emails at all.
- “I didn’t mean to slash/trip/board or knock you down.” This isn’t a total lie. It’s simply a “shading.” I didn’t mean to do all these penalty-inducing things, but people sometimes get between me and the puck, and I am goals-oriented person.As Henry James, brother to William, once said at the end of a long essay about the rules of writing, the only rule is, “Be generous, be delicate, and always pursue the prize.” Two out of three isn’t bad for me.
- “Macintosh has lots of software.” This is a lie that I told in my sordid past–circa 1984-1987. It is closely related to the lie I told software developers: “You can make a lot of money writing Macintosh software.” What can I say? Guilty as charged. I was young and less moral then. Not that this justifies anything, but I believed what I was saying.
Bonus: “I don’t care about my Technorati ranking.”
I care a lot about my Technorati ranking, and it’s important for you to know why I care. I believe that the number of links is a proxy for the quality of a blog: the more links, the higher the quality. (Clearly, this isn’t true for all blogs, but this is how I look at my kind of blog.) Therefore, caring about my ranking parses to caring about the number of links parses to caring about the quality of my blog. And I take great pride in the quality of my blog.
While I’m at it, there’s another reason that I care so much about my ranking. I want to show the closed “club” of A Listers that that someone can come out of the blue, not play their petty, hypocritical games, and rise to the top because of good content. Even more important, I want to encourage the 45 million other bloggers out there to do the same–or better. Hence, I have a particular fondness for organizations like BlogHer.
Thank you, Guy. Easily my favorite of the “Lies” series. I still hope you’ll find more liars to expose but exposing this liar was good.
Regarding number 2, my suggestion is to skip the “…interesting…” part. “That’s not something for us.” Smart people will read between the lines and maybe go and come back with something better. Everyone else is left with no room to argue.
“I think what you’re doing is interesting, but it’s not something for us.”
I too used to think I had only two options in this kind of situation, 1) be nice and give a polite excuse, or be strong and look like an asshole.
Fortunately, it turns out that I don’t have to accept this sucker’s choice, because there is a third way. A couple of years ago I learned a trick that has helped me learn to handle these offers with both kindness and strength.
And I think it’s important to mention that this is not just something venture capitalists face: anybody who has ever been approached with an uninvited job offer, or a request to work together on a book, or asked on an unwanted date — actually anybody that gets asked to do anything! needs a good way to politely say no.
The basic structure of your response is exactly right: a softening move, that affirms the person and your relationship, followed by a no-excuses statement you aren’t interested.
But, the whole thing works a lot better if you start with something positive, and emotionally honest.
I generally say “Oh, thank you for thinking of me, it really means a lot to me that you are interested in….” This helps to affirm the relationship, and keep the door open for other (better) offers.
But, when the offer is absolutely not something I want to participate in, I say that too. Usually this goes something like: “It’s just not a good fit for me right now.”
If you give excuses, people grab onto them and try to overcome your objections, which can lead to an long unwanted conversation.
So, unless I am at least a little interested, I never open that door.
I learned this trick from Gerald M. Weinberg’s book “Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully,” and it has certainly helped me build better relationships, and avoid entanglements in unwanted projects!
Regarding number 2 (saying no), why not just stick to the second half of your statement (the part that isn’t a lie)? “What you’re doing just isn’t for us.” It’s an authentic statement and it really doesn’t get into whether the idea is good or not (which generates the long discussion). If they ask why, tell them that you haven’t found those conversations to be fruitful. It just simply isn’t for us.
I think Wil Shipley and his VERY nice Lotus would perhaps disagree with “You can make a lot of money writing Mac software” being a lie.
He did a preso at the WWDC a while ago that had some really good points about why it’s hard to get ahead in the Windows market, and a big reason was:
“No matter how much time, effort, love, care and quality you put into your application, some tool with a copy of Visual Basic is going to do a half-assed ripoff of your stuff, sell it for a tenth of what you are, and kill you, because the Windows market is about one thing, and that’s price. Not quality, price.”
Making money in the Mac market can seem disproportionately harder, but that’s because Mac users, by and large, don’t like crap, and they’ll tell you your application is crap, and they’ll tell all their friends.
But if you have a good bit of code, you’re going to do quite well, even when there’s a dominant player. Just ask the Coding Monkeys.
The zone in public speaking
Guy Kawasaki expressed it pretty nicely in his fourth point of entry on “The Top Ten Lies” – public speaking. He says that after commencing a speech, he is entering the zone. I agree. It is here where you are…
I too am commenting on “I think what you’re doing is interesting, but it’s not something for us.” Let me start with three cases where detailed negative feedback seemed useful.
1. The documentary Startup.com, as I recall, actually showed the gentlemen present to a VC firm and receive some detailed negative feedback. I think that feedback was very valuable and a great service to the gentlemen.
2. Dean Kamen brought together a number of corporate heads before the launch of the Segway. Apparently Steve Jobs gave some pretty tough feedback which turned out to be precient. Now certainly that’s not quite the same as a VC interaction, but honest feedback can be very helpful. In my opinion Jobs did not come off as an asshole.
3. When someone gets to the interview stage while pursuing a job and fails to get the job, one common piece of advice to is to call the appropiate person/people at the company and ask for some honest feedback.
Honest feedback can be helpful. I think it’s the decent thing to do if the other person/people are willing to listen. So I’m going to suggest that you offer people that type of feedback but preface it by saying something like:
“I’d be happy to give you some detailed feedback, but I’ve found in the past that people want to argue with me, and I don’t want the conversation to evolve that way. Given that, would you like the feedback?”
Regarding telling people the bad news… I often start by asking. “Are you open to feedback on this idea?” If they say yes, I can give it to them. If they become defensive and argumentative I will remind them that they told me they were open to feed back and leave it at that. If they say NO, then I can say, “It’s just not something for us.”
For number 2 how about something like “you need to work with someone who understands what you are trying to do better than I do.” Sure they may try to explain things better now and again but in general maybe they’ll just write you off and go find someone who appreciates their idea.
guy knows better
never say never…
Guy… I have found Honesty is the best policy when giving feedback. Anything less than the truth does you and the poor soul asking your opinion a disservice. What is wrong with saying simply “not for us… thanks for the effort to bring to our attention”… and leave it at that. As one CEO once told me… “kindness is a strength”. If someone has a problem with honest, kind responses… its their problem to deal with.
#2: I heard a good approach from a VC at an SVASE Breakfast I was moderating: “On a scale of 1 to 10 how honest do you want me to be? ” – before giving his feedback to the pitching entrepreneur.
Of course noone in their right mind will say anything less than 10, but by then the entrepreneur is mentally/emotionally prepared, he just asked the VC for a tough critique.. they set the stage for this to be a coaching session, nothing more. :-) It worked like a charm.
Bonus: the Technorati ranking. Of course it matters, but please, you cant really for a moment think this is proof that the A-list is penetrable (or is this lie # 12?). You were a brand prior to starting your blog and that changes everything. I am a lowly 9k or so now, but believe me, without a brand name, from scratch, its tough.
I’m a serial start-up CEO (on #4 now) and have been an EIR, so although I’m not a VC, I’ve been on both sides of the “no” equation.
And I think that the “not for us” answer when you know that a company won’t work is a total cop-out. I was guilty of the same behavior until…
One evening I was presenting to an organization that provides networking and support for entrepreneurs. After my talk, a start-up had the opportunity to do a 5-minute pitch. The team was great but the idea was simply awful. After the event the team – all 4 of them – cornered me and asked what I thought. I blurted out “Have you guys quit your jobs yet?” After an awkward silence, one of them laughed and said “No, not yet, and I’m guessing that you’d suggest we don’t.” That opening allowed us to have a conversation about why their idea was doomed. The incident was a turning point for me: I realizd that I had saved four families from almost certain financial and emotional pain.
Entrepreneurs can be extraordinarly hard-headed about this, so you do need to find a way to be firm. And you can be firm without lying – it’s about attitude, and a willingness to have the closed-minded entrepreneurs think you’re a jerk. That’s their problem, not yours. What I say is usually something like: “I really appreciate the opportunity to take a look at your business. You’ve clearly made a ton of progress already and you should be proud of what you’ve done. Still, I’m concerned that you’re too far ahead of the market, that your sales cycles are too long for the price point, and your resulting capital needs are going to outstrip your ultimate value. I hope I’m wrong, and I hope that you can use that feedback in some productive way. Regardless, we’re going to have to pass.” Then you stand up and say “Thanks again for coming in.”
VCs have a huge amount of expertise and experience that can be of tremendous value to entrepreneurs. If you’ve invested the time to understand the business well enough to have an opinion, it’s selfish not to share it.
Top Ten Underserved Web 2.0 Markets
Recently I posted a meta-list of Web 2.0 lists. My current favorite list is the eConsultant’s Web 2.0 Directory. It has “1007 Web 2.0 sites/services/links in 50+ categories”. Sacred Cow Dung’s is another easily-scannable catagorized list. As I scrolled…
No 2 is a difficult one, but I think that it’s the same across the board for other lies. Even in the case of technopreneurs, some VCs use that statement a lot.
I wonder whether the top 10 lies are constituted as lies or really they are just “politically correct statements.”
I concur with your Technorati fixation. It may not be the perfect metric-to-end-all-metrics, but to see your rankings significantly rise is definitely a sign that you’re doing something right. This is true whether you’re in the top 100 or top million.
Guy, one thing I learned in grad school 12 years ago having to deal with undergrads and grades was that if you can show a student that 15 others kicked his ass, he’ll stop arguing. Post the scores for each exam, the totals for the course, etc. Concrete benchmarks. In the VC world, maybe you put summaries of where companies were when you funded them and what impressed you, what made you say yes. Grade them on 5 or 6 areas of business. Those are the guys that prospective portfolio firms would have to beat in every category. That is the bar. Now, at least you’ll only have to break the hearts of entrepreneurs who have their shittakes tied in full Windsor knots.
“I want to show the closed “club” of A Listers that that someone can come out of the blue, not play their petty, hypocritical games, and rise to the top because of good content.”
I would love to do that myself (I’m not even A-list in the far smaller world of vlogging, alas!), but you do have the advantage of a name that was already well known outside of blogging. Whereas I have an unknown name that no one can spell or pronounce.
Bravo Guy. The Valley values far too much the currency of money instead of the currency of ideas. Without ideas, VCs are well just bankers.
Nice list. I think #6 is bullshit (and can we stop ragging on the shitake? Shit is shit and mushrooms are mushrooms), I know plenty of people who blog for the fun of it or because they have some other driving need.
I have a shite little blog that only friends and strangers visit and I don’t have any ads. I blog because its fun.
I block all your ads and non-blog related content anyway, because they are annoying and because I can.
I like number 5 the best… Oh and btw I just found ways to run OSX on my Treo 650 hardware and Palm OS on my ipod. I’d love get together to discuss my investor slide deck with you and GTV. Will you be wearing your cup to work next Tuesday? :)
C’mon … “You find me a blogger who says he doesn’t care about making money blogging, and I’ll show you a liar.” … you are f___ing kidding me
Nice post all the way.
#6 – Money Blogging.
Uh… your site is ranked like top 40th or something at technorati. Your blog must have great number of visitors…. why not apply for google and place some ads for your site? I bet you would get great income from the ads only!
And this was a free ‘investing’ tip for an investor :)
Oh, and I don’t care for the money as I blog ;)
Today Macintosh does have a lot of software indeed. No longer a lie, Guy. :-)
If you can limit the context to non-fraudulent lies (which these are) it strikes me that some of these lies are fine – even helpful and others make me think “Guy, you’re a smart fellow you can do better than this”. Still others are most detrimental to the liar. I’ve illustrated one of each at http://thesmallbusinesscoach.com/blog/2006/05/24/straighten-up-and-lie-right/ won’t bore you here.
PS – Guy, I will see you in St. Louis – at the ICF Conference.
Do you play hockey with your entrepeneurs?
Do you hold it against us if our elbows come up in the corners?
Erik (whose lungs aren’t in shape for hockey right now)
How refreshing to have you value family time so much, and further, to be so open and honest about it. In this day and age, it is more common for men to brag about getting home in time to tuck the kids in. I really get that you want to BE there for them, with them. I am thrilled for you that you have a way to make some decent money and then have great chunks of time to spend with your family. If only more families did the work to make their lives like this!
With all due respect Guy, I think part of the reason you broke the A-list so quickly is that you had major name recognition before you began blogging. It’s probably dut to the book interview you did for Businesspundit a couple of years ago ;-)
“I think what you’re doing is interesting, but it’s not something for us.”
I read an interesting book a while ago called “The Macintosh Way.” The author said that Jean-Louis Gasse would use the line:
“Your idea could be even better.”
Very few people will say, “no, it’s as perfect as perfect can be.” They’ll wax on about their vision, and you can extricate yourself with “I look forward to future developments.”
Your honesty about all this is refreshing.
With regard to #2: rejection is rejection is rejection whether you engage “why”, try to help them, are an asshole about it… whatever. I would just pull a Simon Cowell (American Idol) or Doug Hall (The evil German in Raiders of the Lost Ark via American Inventor) and just simply say: “I’m sorry, but you’re not right for this competition.” And leave it at that.
Because ultimately time is precious, and you don’t have time to explain “why” as you troll for more entrepreneurs (#3)!
No 2: “I think what you’re doing is interesting but”…what about a version of www.thanksno.com. I’m sure the explanation is often the same. It’ll still be nicer than saying ‘your idea is stupid’ although, if it is, I would rather you told me so.
I was just about to pick up the phone to tell an entrepreneur: “What you’re doing is not for us…” when I saw Guy Kawasaki’s post on this (point number 2)… It also happens that yesterday I had a talk
The Top Ten Lies of Guy Kawasaki
by: Guy Kawasaki 1. I already have a meeting at lunch. This isnt a lie if you consider talking to people on the bench between shifts a meeting. What can I say? One of my great joys in life is…
“8. “We don’t have a position at Garage or in our portfolio, but I’ll keep you in mind.” …The interesting thing about this lie is that many people are very thankful for even this response; I think it’s because most recipients never respond to such emails at all.”
After going on job interviews and getting the occasional “you’ve got great qualifications but we ain’t gonna hire you” emails, when I get a response a like this, it gives me some hope. I know its a lie and I’ll never hear from them again, but it just offers a little hope.
YOU need a VC (Or a bVC:
blog Venture Capitalist).
Your name and your
background and your
inability to keep your
mouth shut, combined with
your ability to keep your
mouth shut sometimes,
guarantees that you could
make a viable, commercial
And more. You could either
move into journalism (on-
line) or help develop the
newer means of conveying
conventional (as well as
Let me know if you don’t
believe this. I could show
Once again, great reading!
Use psychology methods to engage these individuals correctly without causing harm.
1. Acknowledge their idea.
2. Use reflective listening to guide them to understand their shortcomings.
3. Let them then fix or ditch the idea.
#4 quit being a baby before you show up. You are there by choice and you know it will be good. Your thought process level is high enough to overcome emotion with logic. It will probably make the flight to the event better too.
I am stunned that you described “Henry James” as “brother to William”. I had to look William up…!
I want to second BL’s comments and Brad F’s final paragraph.
It is possible to give feedback that’s honest, valuable and, ultimately, kind. Furthermore, I’ve found it depends more on the giver than the receiver.
Don’t “couch” or “ease” into it, don’t sandwich it. For more insight into why, read the pdf article “Does Your Leadership Reduce Learning” at http://www.schwarzassociates.com
Asking for permission also works well will clients/people I know. My favorite of late is: “Do I have your permission to nail you?”. Invariably, I’m thanked afterwards.
“And this was a free ‘investing’ tip for an investor :)”
Whoever said investors know how to build and grow successful business operations? The difference between entrepreneurial and investment activities is that entrepreneurs commit a significant amount of time and effort to refine their ‘idea’. Investors listen to a 15-minute speech and think they’re omniscient.
Mostly kidding, of course. ;P
Guy, you’re the man.
Can somebody here tells me what’s a jar filled with mushroom has to do with Guy’s Top Ten Lies?
The jar is full of Shiitake Mushrooms. Like Guy. ;) Love ya Guy!
Rofl – the comment at the end on the A-listers completely made my day.
I wonder how many people jumped into the article, read the top-10 list, and then surfed away, missing that nugget at the end?
Truth maketh a man or in Guy’s case lies maketh the case. It is not such a bad think to reassess every now and again.
Lie 13 – Oops I didnt mean to tell the truth to my customer.
Guy, you’ve completely turned me off those Japanese mushrooms. I’m switching to Porcini…
Uhh, Karen should I assume that’s a typo and you meant “MAIL you”? Otherwise your clientele is very different from mine.
I agree with #8. It is very hard to say no to somebody, it is even harder to keep that person in-mind for the next six to nine months, just in case something does come up.
ROFL at Wily.
Probably it was a typo – but, think about it – wouldnt it be a great deliberate typo in that request for permission? You’re sure to get attention and recognition :)
Afterwards you correct it, and have a little personal rapport already built with the prospect.
#2’s the one that resonated with me. I was so tired of VCs saying “make this change and come back”, or “interesting, but…” that when I became an angel investor, I resolved to be honest. BIG mistake. I had one guy threaten me physically , then a pair of ‘entrepreneurs’ start telling me I was short-sighted, and they didn’t need my money anyway, and how much smarter they were than me. While all of these may have been true, I still resolved to lie in the future.
Now it’s “wow, that’s really cool. If you figure out how to build it for $1.99 instead of $5,000 I’ll definitely invest.”
After reading 6 & 7, I feel for you man! I’m getting tired of people trying to be righteous and say that they don’t care about the money and that they spend hour and hours away from their family just because they love to blog/write. …BS; Even for non-entrepreneurs, if our time and energy BEING USED BY OTHERS is of value…shouldn’t it be valuated $$$$?
Hold on there Guy – aren’t you an Apple Fellow? It says right here in Wikipedia that you are:
…there’s only like 8 Apple Fellows in the whole world.
Apple Fellows don’t get any perqs at all?
I was an Apple Fellow. I am no more. I’m just a regular Joe, paying full retail. :-)
Enjoy the references in #7 and #9. Hockey has a way of capturing life’s struggles in a direct and immediate way. Another great post. Look forward to St. Louis in 2007.
Have a great weekend.
Very interesting list of lies posted by Guy Kawasaki. Some of them are just the little lies of everyday life, other are the lies of marketers (and yes, as Seth Goding puts it All Marketers Are Liars – great book
It’s interesting that the quantity of lies is often directly proportional to the amount of income. The most honest people are often the poorest.
Hitwise leidis, et Top 100 otsingutest 75 protsenti sisaldab mingi brändi nime.
44 protsendil UK-lastest pole kodus interneti ühendust.
Google hakkab katsetama click to play…
Thanks for this entertaining series, Guy. I haven’t noticed you posting on the top 10 lies of buyers so I took the initiative to do so on my blog. Enjoy.
I’m certainly the one blogger who blogs for fame and not for fortune.
More visitors would be great, though ;-)
Oh well, maybe I should blog in English rather than German in that case… ;-)
Best greetings from Brussels
This was fantastic. I certainly can respect a honest liar! Reminds me of the transparent Pardoner from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Seriously, I agree with your point about links being a fair proxy for quality of a blog; however, I do believe there are large number of ‘unknown’ blogs with high-value content that are either invisible or only read by a smaller circle of people.
Thanks! If one can’t be an honest liar, what is the world coming to? I agree that there are many high value blogs that don’t get a lot of links. Then it’s “just” marketing. I’d rather have to fix marketing than content!
A reaction to #2 came to mind almost immediately, and I’m curious if you’d care to think how you would respond….
I would ask, “What are the aspects (if anything specific) that strike you as wrong or impractical?”. I’d never expect a VC to solve or pose a solution to the offering, but I would expect them to know what they have an issue with, and hopefully WHY they have the issue.
Kawasaki Says: Bend The Rules To Win
At least, that’s how I read it “I didn’t mean to slash/trip/board or knock you down…. I didn’t mean to… but people sometimes get between me and the puck, and I am goals-oriented person. “As Henry James [said]… the only
Kawasaki Pays Retail
What does that say about networking? I’ve been out of Apple for nine years, so I have few connections there. When Apple comes out with new stuff, I stand in line and pay full retail just like anyone else. When
Straighten Up and Lie Right
It strikes me that some of these lies are fine – even helpful – and others make me think Guy, youre a smart fellow you can do better than this. Still others are most detrimental to the liar. Ill illustrate one of each.