Bad Times Are Good Times for Entrepreneurs

Last Updated Oct 10, 2008 9:24 AM EDT

Bad times are good times for startups, according to serial entrepreneur Bill Warner. Speaking at an 'unconference' sponsored by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, he told attendees that he started his best-known company, digital media hotshot Avid Technologies, in September 1987, just weeks before that year's Black Tuesday event in October.

I heard about Warner's remarks talking to a venture capitalist this morning, and found a blog post about the unevent by Scott Kirsner, a Boston-area writer on innovation. Kirsner quoted Warner as saying "This is a time of great opportunity," he said. "This is not a pep talk. This is reality."

Kirsner also shared a nugget of startup sales wisdom from Bob Metcalfe, a highly successful technology entrepreneur and investor who is now at Polaris Ventures:

Bob then offered a secret to selling that he said none of us had heard elsewhere.


How do you establish credibility? By keeping little promises. People you're selling to always wonder, will the product work like he says? Will I get the benefits? One way to do that is a pattern of keeping promises.

If you say, I'll be there at 5:00, don't come late, or you've begun to teach them that you don't keep promises. If you say you're going to finish on time, you finish on time. (Bob promised he'd finish his presentation by his allotted time, and he did - with time to spare.) If you say, I'll send you my brochure tomorrow, that's a little promise, so keep it. Eventually, you say, my products will work, and they'll make your life wonderful, and people believe you.

 

There you have it -- good behavior is good for business.
  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.