March 11, 2020

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by: Jonathan Hung

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Categories: Angel Investor

What To Do If Your Startup Pitch Fails

Rejection for entrepreneurs often feels soul-crushing at first. Entrepreneurs are often incredibly passionate about the work they’re doing. They see a vision that nobody else sees. They work late nights, long hours, and dedicate significant time to building the business. Everything is going well – maybe you’re even starting to gain traction in the marketplace – and then, boom, there’s a significant rejection that comes your way. Perhaps the bank rejects your business for a loan, or an investor rejects putting money into your company. No matter what form of rejection you experience, it will be painful. You may even begin to question if they’re right and you’re wrong. You may start to wonder if they rejected you, will others do so in the future as well?

As an entrepreneur, rejection will, unfortunately, be part of your new venture. Almost everyone who has accomplished anything significant in their lives has faced rejection at some point. How you respond to that criticism, however, will determine how successful your company will be. Here are the top five ways to deal with rejection for entrepreneurs, like yourself.

Table of Contents

  1. You’re Not Alone
  2. Everything is a Learning Opportunity
  3. Remember that Failure is Not Forever
  4. Be More Than Your Business
  5. Use It as An Opportunity To Network
  6. Conclusion

You’re Not Alone

The business world has countless stories of people who faced rejection in pursuit of their dreams. It’s never a matter of if it will happen, it’s a matter of when it will happen. People will always assume the worst-case scenario and will always offer their opinions. Venture capitalists, angel investors, and banks will run your numbers, listen to your pitch, and hear your thoughts before making a yes or no decision. Even the very best ideas face rejection because the timing wasn’t right for the investor, the pitch deck wasn’t as polished as it should have been, and so on.

Apple fired Steve Jobs in 1985 from the company he co-founded, because the board of directors didn’t like his management style. In 1997, he came back and helped Apple become one of the most successful businesses in the world.

Harvard University, Warren Buffett’s dream school, rejected him. The alumnus who was doing the interview spent all of 10 minutes with him and determined he wasn’t a good fit for such a prestigious school. However, he wound up getting into Columbia and developed the investing skills that would prove to be so critical to his life’s success.

Jeff Bezos has stated that it took him 60 meetings to try and raise $1 million for his business back in 1995. Most people didn’t want any part of it. Only 22 investors backed him at about $50,000 a piece. It might boggle the mind to think of Amazon as anything but the behemoth that it is today. Back then, it was a fledgling company engaging in the uncharted territory of e-commerce.

These are simply the stories of three of the world’s wealthiest, most influential entrepreneurs. These people have built incredible companies that have impacted the world in countless ways. Yet, they were all rejected. Every single one of them faced rejection – whether they were fired or told their ideas wouldn’t work out.

Rejection for entrepreneurs might be emotionally challenging but remember above all else that even the best business tycoons face rejection at some point in time.

Everything is a Learning Opportunity

While rejection is often emotionally challenging, it also presents a fantastic learning opportunity. When someone says no to an idea, thought, or proposal that you have, it’s essential to delve into the reason behind the response. Your goal shouldn’t necessarily be to get a different result, but more to understand what the rationale was that led to a no. If one person rejects your pitch deck, for example, then there are likely others that will, as well.

Many times entrepreneurs, who are very passionate about their businesses and their ideas, take the notion of rejection personally. Seldom, however, is rejection ever personal. The investor, friend, or family member rejecting you is doing so because they objectively think your idea or business may be too risky for them. They don’t see what you see. They don’t know the potential that might seem obvious to you. Therefore, when rejection happens, it is a time to reflect on ways to communicate your vision better. It’s a time to work on your idea, learn, and grow!

Entrepreneurs should always be striving to learn and grow. Rejection for entrepreneurs represents a time to turn those growth principles into reality. Once you learn the reason why the rejection happened, you can work to correct the problem. If your pitch deck lacked substantial numbers, then maybe you change it to include all the relevant details. Similarly, if an investor rejected your pitch due to the company’s focus, then that is a learning opportunity to seek funding from investors with more expertise in your particular domain. Every rejection for entrepreneurs presents a unique and exciting opportunity to learn, grow, and help others help you to make your dreams a reality.

By framing rejection as a learning opportunity, it helps reduce the emotional sting that an entrepreneur may feel. You can work to improve your business and make your case for the future. This tactic is far more productive than dwelling on the past.

Remember that Failure is not Forever

Entrepreneurs sometimes erroneously believe that rejection is “forever.” If a bank rejected your loan proposal, then they’ll never want to invest in your business, for example. Or, even more insidious, entrepreneurs may conclude that because one bank rejected them, every bank will.

This simple concept couldn’t be further from the truth. Rejections are almost temporary. Probably any bank that rejected funding Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook in the past would lend him money today. Usually, people or companies that are doing the rejecting are doing so with set criteria in mind. Change the circumstances of your business, and doors will open! You can always try again!

An excellent example of this is an entrepreneur making an initial pitch to an angel investor. Perhaps the investor declines because they don’t feel the company has the growth potential necessary to invest. That rejection is a temporary one. Once you fix the underlying problem (i.e., establishing and showing growth), you’ll unlock that door, and the angel investor will be more than happy to put money into your business.

Some rejections are permanent (such as, “I don’t invest in software startups, I only invest in agricultural companies”), but more often than not, rejections are temporary. There’s a hurdle, a metric that’s not met, or a financial condition that makes the person say no rather than providing you a resounding yes. Fix that problem, and you will find that most rejection for entrepreneurs is temporary at best and fixed with some business improvements.

Be More Than Your Business

If you are having trouble handling rejection because of all the late nights and weekends you’ve put into your business, it may be time to take a step back and take a breather. While late nights and work on weekends are almost inevitable for any startup, if that work means that you can no longer see where your personal life is different than your business life, then you may wish to consider stepping back a bit.

Sometimes, rejection stings extra hard because, as an entrepreneur, you’ve poured your life and soul into making things work. When someone says “no” to all that hard work, then it hurts.

Remember, though, no matter how much work you put in, your company is just that, work. Focus on having a meaningful life, friends, family, and activities outside of work so that way you can see rejections for what they are: not an attack on you, but rather a business decision for the other person.

Of course, be passionate about your business. Be its and your biggest cheerleader. You should have a desire to succeed and thrive. But at the end of the day, the person to whom you’re making the pitch is a businessperson just like you. If it doesn’t make sense for them, they won’t reciprocate with an acceptance. By viewing yourself as being more than your company, you can compartmentalize that rejection appropriately. You’ll prohibit it from clouding your mind and interfering with other aspects of your personal and professional life.

Use Your Failures as An Opportunity To Network

Find other like-minded people. Get together to share your stories of rejection for entrepreneurs. Seriously. Grab a coffee with people who are in the same boat as you. Or, grab one with entrepreneurs who have been in the same boat as you in the past. Share stories. Pretty soon, you’ll find that your shared stories of rejection form into camaraderie. Once that happens, you can all work together to help each other tackle the problem of rejection. Share advice and receive it as well. Listen to everything that others have to say because it’s possible that within their information lies the wisdom necessary to turn a rejection into a yes.

Being a successful entrepreneur also means realizing that you’re not in this alone. There have been thousands of people before you that have made similar missteps, and some have a story of success. Others have let that rejection eat away at them. Only by networking with like-minded people can you begin to learn what differentiates the success stories from the ones that don’t have quite the same happy ending.

Using it as an opportunity to network also has an added benefit. Assuming that you find a way to move past the rejection and find a way to succeed, your fellow entrepreneurs will appreciate that. You’ll rapidly establish yourself as an authority in your space because you navigated tricky waters and came out on the other side. People will instinctually gravitate towards you, which can lead to long-lasting, fruitful business relationships.

You’re not in this alone! Use the rejection as an opportunity to share experiences with other entrepreneurs and learn from others who have encountered a similar problem. Use it as an opportunity to stress and highlight your tenacity and endurance!

Conclusion

Rejection is inevitable, but it’s how you respond that matters most.

Can you imagine, for a few moments, what the world would be like if Steve Jobs had decided to stop persevering after being fired from Apple? What if he had just decided never to own a business again, and retired on a beach somewhere? Or, what would the world be like if Warren Buffett had felt so crushed from his Harvard rejection that Buffett decided not to attend school at all? He probably wouldn’t be the multi-billionaire that he is today!

Rejection for entrepreneurs is inevitable. If you are a business owner, you will face people who say no – lots of them. The key is to keep persevering and have strategies to cope with the rejections that will come your way.

Always remember that even the biggest success stories have faced rejection. Those same people persevered through it. They used it as a learning opportunity, and they viewed rejection as limited and temporary. Buffett didn’t perceive rejection from Harvard as a rejection from all universities – he wound up attending Columbia, which is very prestigious on its own. It might not have been his dream, but he made it work.

Entrepreneurs also use rejections as learning opportunities. Steve Jobs has famously said that his first firing from Apple was a blessing in disguise because it permitted him to enter into one of the most creative phases of his life. Without the work he did at NeXT in between his two stints at Apple, Apple would have never had the underlying technology necessary to be the behemoth that it is today.

You should also view yourself as being more significant than your business. When someone rejects you, that person is not rejecting you personally. The person is rejecting the company you’re running. By framing it that way, you can see rejections for what they are – a business decision that merely didn’t make sense for the other person at this time.

Finally, rejection presents an opportunity to network and share stories. Often, entrepreneurs can forge meaningful connections sharing stories of when people didn’t believe in them!

Rejection, while painful, is a comparatively temporary and fleeting blip in your entrepreneurial journey. Focus on the five ways to deal with rejection for entrepreneurs above, and you’ll get through this!