As an early investor in companies like Uber and Airbnb, Ashton Kutcher is used to entrepreneurs asking him, or at least his firm Sound Ventures, for some investment capital.
At TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, Kutcher explained onstage the key to piquing his interest — and it largely has to do with how well an entrepreneur can spin a compelling narrative.
“One of the critical tests that I try to run when I’m sitting across from a founder is: Can you sell me your idea?” said Kutcher.
For Kutcher, the ability to convey a company’s mission determines whether or not they’ll be able to snag the best talent in a competitive job market.
“If you can’t sell me, how are you going to sell your first hire, your second hire, your third hire?” Kutcher asked. “How are you going to create the capacity for the rest of your team to sell those next hires?”
He continued, “For early stage companies, generally the CEO of the company has to hire the first 40 people … If you’re competing for the best talent in the world and you can’t sell your idea to the best talent in the world, how are you going to get all A players around you to turn this into an explosive company? If at the end of the conversation [you] can’t sell me to work for you, how are you going to sell your first 50 employees?”
Kutcher described this ability to tell the story of an early stage company as integral to its future growth.
“I think the storytelling piece has to happen,” he said. “You can refine it and make it better and improve it and figure out how to communicate it to a consumer over time, but [for] early stage companies, that person has to do all of those things.”
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