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Even outside of the VCs, it's true that startups generally don't get to hear negative feedback on their idea from anyone. On the whole, people are really nice. No one wants to say "I don't think that'll work because X" as, in other other sphere, it's just a really horrible thing to say to someone. Startups actually need to hear that stuff though. It's not horrible to tell a startup you think there's a barrier to their success; it's damn useful information.

It's a shame too, because I'm sure there's a lot of startups that could have used some honesty from the people around them early on to modify and pivot and consequently not fail.

Actually, entrepreneurs receive tons of negative feedback on their ideas. Regardless of the industry, most senior leaders in that industry will proclaim that some innovation won't work (otherwise, it would've already been tried). At FlightCaster, we received loads of strategic feedback--all of which was fairly wild speculation.

Challenging an entrepreneur on the validity of an idea is actually a form of nice feedback. It seems like it's saying, "I believe in you but I have found some concrete roadblock that will cause this to fail." That's almost always bullshit, because startups change forms throughout their life, shifting strategies and tactics to avoid such roadblocks.

Really, that feedback is saying "I don't think you have what it takes to get around roadblocks."

Maybe its just lazy. You ask for feedback; they think of challenges and tell you. Who wants to spend the time digging into YOUR space to figure out detailed analysis? Easier to say "Competition, IP required, time-to-market too long" because they're always an issue.

I understand why this can happen, because I've given people constructive negative feedback a couple of times, when they asked for frank feedback.

Guess what happened?

They became defensive, trying to explain to me why my feedback was wrong. One person stopped discussing their project with me entirely, and some others just avoided me after that.

Why go through all that when you can just tell them their baby is beautiful, give them some token softball criticism that they can say they're already addressing and move on with your life?

It's a good filter though. Not to say success is binary, but I use this as a way of finding who to keep in touch with at meetups and the like. Not to say that I enjoy being rude to people or feasting on people's tears, but I like it as a way of seeing who's been through the startup process before and who will actually stick around. Being able to take criticism in stride is key.

There is now a term for this (can't recall who coined it): "grin fucking". The desire to be nice ends up fucking over the founder in the long run.

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