Angel Funding 101: How committed are you?

Stick with me. This is good stuff.

As a greying entrepreneur, I get hit up for advice and funding. (Mostly funding.) The truth is, I hit up my share of veteran entrepreneurs when I was striking out. When rookies hit me up now, I try to make myself available but with one caveat.

If you want my advice on your career or a venture you’re working on, you have to tolerate a parable first and then answer a few questions. The parable is from the gospel of Saint Matthew and it goes like this:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Alright. Let’s break it down.

The treasure was obviously hidden. What was this guy doing digging around on someone else’s property? The fact he chose to hide it “again” means the treasure wasn’t in plain sight.

The guy scores a few points considering he decided against stealing it.

Maybe he was honest. Maybe he knew he couldn’t keep or sell it without getting busted.

He definitely had an idea of what the treasure was worth.

And why did he hide it again? My guess: if he found it, it’s likely someone else would, too.

To me, the most valuable phrase in this parable is, “in his joy”.

Joy is a powerful word. It seems this dude had a genuine sense of satisfaction and personal fulfillment in whatever it was he found. And to top it off, he knew what his possessions were worth.

Assuming this guy may have been married, he would have had to talk the missus into selling her stuff, too.

Listen, it’s one thing to be excited about an opportunity. It’s another to persuade others to buy into your vision and mutually commit. This leaves us with two big questions:

What did the treasure consist of?

When I ask entrepreneurs this question, I get a version of one of the following answers:

“Financial independence!”

“Market share!”

“Being admired as an industry leader by my peers!”

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

I’m skipping ahead here but here’s how I address these kinds of responses.

It’s you that is hidden in the box. YOU.

This always triggers a response like, “How can I be in the box? I found the box!”

I remind them we cannot be discovered until we first discover ourselves. If you ask anyone who has achieved success, you learn there are no big breaks. These folks believed in themselves when few others did and they refused to quit until they found their joy.

Now, if they are asking for funding, I ask them one more question: 

Are you asking me to sell my stuff to buy your field?

While they’re letting that question sink in, I kindly convey the following:

1. Discover yourself FIRST.

2. Prepared to make serious sacrifices to achieve what it is you seek.

3. Get used to putting in tons of ass-breaking work.

Only then, can we begin to understand the cost of being fully committed.