When to Believe in an Entrepreneur and When to Run Away

It’s never the Steve Jobs fanatics who have memorized the startup playbook

Joe Procopio
Published in
6 min readJan 6, 2020


Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images Entertainment

Last week, one of the founders I’m advising landed a lucrative and potentially game-changing customer.

This was a moment of truth in more ways than one. First of all, it staved off what had been a downward spiral of unfortunate events in the life of her company. But more importantly, it reestablished her faith in herself — faith that, by that point, seemingly no one else had.

She may not ultimately succeed, but at least now she has a fighting chance. For entrepreneurs, that fighting chance is usually all we need.

Oh, and as an advisor, witnessing that kind of redemptive win — when nobody else believed in her — is one of the best experiences in the world.

Why did I believe in this particular entrepreneur?

One of the primary reasons I’ve been successful is an ability to spot faith-worthy entrepreneurial talent quickly — in terms of picking people to work with, work for, invest in, or just stake a vouch on.

I’ll admit that there isn’t a template or checklist that I go through to decide if I’m going to believe in someone’s entrepreneurial talent. Hell, if I had that, I’d just sell the template. I’ve been wrong with initial calls on people. I’ve even reversed positive calls into negative calls when I started seeing things I didn’t like.

For the record, I’ve never reversed a negative call into a positive call — which just shows it’s much easier to go bad than turn good.

I’m also not talking about picking obvious winners and losers. Anyone can do that math. I’m talking about finding maximum value early, because that’s essentially the game we’re all playing. If I see value where no one else does or before anyone else can, that’s worth so much more than making a bet that Mark Zuckerberg might just do okay the next time he starts a company.

Entrepreneurial talent means someone who can solve problems and get results on their own.



Joe Procopio
Writer for

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com

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