Please tell me no

I recently reached out to Paul Graham to inquire about speaking at a mobile tech conference Awesome Inc is hosting called mobileX.  For those who don’t know, Paul Graham is the founder of Y-Combinator.  He’s like the Chris Berman (ESPN) of sports, but for tech startups.  Some call him the Godfather.  Ok, I’m probably putting him on way more of a pedestal than I should, but he is on our wall of rockstars at Awesome Inc.Paul Graham - wall picHe responded within 24 hours with this note:

“Sorry, I’m so busy with YC that I am trying to avoid almost all events, –pg”

Sweet! He told me no!  This is great news.  Now I can move onto to trying to find another speaker.  He didn’t tell me, maybe.  He didn’t tell me he’d think about it.  He didn’t tell me to go jump through some unnecessary hoops and then he’d get back with me.  He knew the answer and very politely told me he couldn’t do it.

just say no If only this happened more often. Let’s take another every day example from my life.  I play indoor soccer and usually the poor soul that is left organizing the team.  This means ensuring that we have enough players show up to each game.  Every week I send out texts to the entire team asking if they can make it or not.
Getting a quick response is as likely as getting my girlfriend to “quickly” leave the mall. I could swear that sometimes you’d think people are so hesitant to tell me they can’t make it that it’s like they are delivering the news that my grandmother has passed away.  Just tell me no, people!  Tell me no right away and I can find a sub.  But most of the times I find out at game time they can’t make it so we’re stuck shorthanded.  This behavior is common with friends, business partners, employees, mentors and customers.

I remember trying to raise a round of investment a year-and-a-half ago. Every investor we would pitch to would tell us they loved our idea and were “probably” in. At the end of each meeting they would ask us to draw up financial projections, learn how to use business planning software tools, or hold numerous additional meetings. We had one investor spend an entire meeting teaching us about all the different types of term sheets! Seriously! My company was a mobile tech startup. You want me to become an expert on term sheets and then you’ll invest? Of course, he didn’t invest and by the next meeting he didn’t even bring up the importance of term sheets, even though we had researched them extensively. We had other investors tell us they would “definitely” do something with us. A week later, they wouldn’t return our phone calls. The point is – I don’t mind learning business planning software or learning about term sheets, but let’s be honest, these are hoops that you are having me jump through to see that I can execute. And I only want to prove to you that I can execute if you are sincerely interested. If you don’t plan to invest in the first place, please don’t waste my time and just tell me no right away…or at least as soon as you know the answer is no.