Who is writing your story?

by Daniel Batten on February 24, 2010

It was a sweltering first day of fall at the USDC 2003. I had been sent to give a pitch as a pioneer New Zealand entrepreneur to the University’s special Connect programme that trained people in the art of securing investment capital. If you had been with me that day, you would have seen in front of me in a small auditorium seated in a U-shaped formation of beige office tables, were a collection of venture capitalists, field experts, lawyers, and angel investors. In short, the creme-de la creme of San Diego’s Dragons Den who between them they had seen over 1000 investment pitches. But they had never ever seen one as bad as they were about to witness.

The first foreboding sign you would have seen on this sweltering day – was that every man in the room was dressed in board shorts and Hawaiian shirts except one lone overdressed overwarm kiwi cooking at the front in a fine-knit woollen black suit, complete with high-buttoned jacket. The heat didn’t stop there.

I can still remember the electric atmosphere at the end of my pitch making my concluding remarks, I heard this rustling sound and I thought “Is that the sound of a cheque-book being extracted from a broad-short back-pocket. But no, it was Jay Kunin, principle at Finistere Capital Partners, inching his elbows forward on the beige desk as he peered over his dark rimmed spectacles looking like a slimmed-down version of Peter Jackson as he asked “is that it?” I was about to have an excruciating next 40 minutes.

Finally, they gave their solitary two compliments: the first was programme director and chief dragon Greg Horowitt: who said “Despite what anyone else says, I’m impressed … that you are still standing”. They all laughed, and as they tapered off I faintly observed Jay Kunin smile as he said “I like you – but I really didn’t like your pitch”.

When I returned to New Zealand. My mentor greeted me.  He said “so how was the big opportunity?” I shook my head and told him how I blew it. I never forget what he said next. After he finished laughing. It was one of those moments that can change your life. I know it changed mine. He said “This is only the end of your dream if you let it be. Or it can be the turning point. “It’s your story and you are the author.”

What he said got me to do what I knew I needed to do, but probably wouldn’t have without him. Because over the next 9 months I was to pitch another 29 times and I was rejected another 29 times, each time getting a little better. And over that time I noticed things started to change – I started to experiment with different things and throw out what didn’t work. I started to dare to weave in some of the things I had learnt as an actor rather than seeing this as an unrelated part of my life. And finally, 9 months later, on the first of May 2004, our company became the first in NZ to secure angel investment group backing, on the 21st July 2005 we secured second round financing in 2.5 weeks, and by Sept 3 2006 our little company from New Zealand had taken its product to the # 1 download on Apple.com worldwide.

There’s nothing special about me, but there was something very special about the mentoring I received from my cousin that caused me to take action where I was ready to throw in the towel. It’s your story, and you are the author. Before you can influence anyone else in life – you must influence yourself to take action. It could be pitching for capital, a sale, a date, a job interview, anything. We all have our dragon’s dens. It’s your story, and you are the author.

Did you ever try to influence once, and then give up – or did you use your own influence as the author of your story and write another ending?

There is only one person writing your story and that is you. The degree to which you decide to take ownership of this fact will determine, possibly more than any other decision, whether your story is a tragedy or a comedy.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ram Vijapurapu February 25, 2010 at 2:55 am

“It’s your story and you are the author.”

I agree with you, every entrepreneur is trying to write a story ~ well in actions not words.

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