BEST OF 2019: 7 Innovation Tips from Silicon Valley Investors (1/3)

Silicon Valley investors see hundreds of startups every year, and work with only a few. What are they looking for? What advice do they give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Here are 7 brilliant, actionable innovation insights from our 2019 Game Thinking Investor series, where innovators learn how to discover, pitch and develop ideas into something that can attract investment.

HINT: the people here have something in common — something that NOT all investors share. Can you figure out what it is? We’ll reveal the answer next week, when we publish Part 2 of this three-part series.

Tip 1: If people are making fun of you, you’re probably doing something right

If you’ve good idea that is ahead of its time, you’ve got to develop a thick skin to ward off naysayers. Here’s Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures sharing what he wishes he had known when he was starting out.

Tip 2: Networks effects can help you create durable businesses

As you develop and validate your ideas, it’s helpful to understand the power and impact of network effects. This simple idea can create rapid growth and customer lock-in — and can help make your idea fundable.

Here’s James Currier of NFX breaking it down for us — and sharing an example of network effects in action in a two-sided marketplace.

Tip 3: Facts don’t change minds — emotions do

How do you pitch an idea to investors? Serial entrepreneur and investor Siqi Chen has been on both sides of the negotiating table, pitching ideas like his latest venture Sandbox VR, and evaluating ideas as an investor.

Siqi has developed some deep — and sometimes surprising — insights about persuasion and storytelling. Check out his advice on how to pitch.

Tip 4: Storytelling is your superpower

Here Siqi expands on the power of emotion, and explains why great storytelling is the secret to getting funded.

Tip 5: To stand out, lead with your weakness

When I first heard Siqi’s suggestion to “lead with weakness” — I was skeptical. But then I heard Siqi explain this idea, and demonstrate it with his own presentation skills…and I realized that this is a brilliant, counter-intuitive, highly actionable piece of advice

Tip 6: Love your customers, not your idea

Based in San Francisco, STEVE HOFFMAN runs Founders Space, a startup accelerator with satellite programs around the world. Steve doesn’t just fund companies, he coaches them through the early stages of bringing their ideas to life.

Tip 7: Gather data as early as you can — building as little as you can

Steve’s entrepreneurial background taught him to “listen to the data” and build something small and simple to test out ideas. Here, he connects the dots and explains WHY it’s so important to iterate quickly and resist the urge to over-polish your first efforts.

So there you have it 7 powerful Innovation Tips from Silicon Valley investors.

Did you figure out what these investors have in common? Leave your guesses in the comments — and stay tuned for Part 2 , when I’ll reveal the answer and give everyone who guessed right a shout-out!

There’s so much gold here that can help you succeed — and that’s why we’ve made an Investor Tips Cheatsheet that’ll help you remember these tips & apply them to your work.


I hope these powerful ideas inspire YOU to innovate smarter and make a positive impact in the next decade. Stay tuned for Part 2 — coming next week.

Game designer, startup coach, author, entrepreneur

Game designer, startup coach, author, entrepreneur