As purveyors of tech stories that are not often covered, we have ourselves (internally) prepared a checklist of bullshit – to separate truth from fiction. This in its own we thought would be a very interesting discussion to write about.
We have encountered “fundraising experts” who have never raised a single cent before; “ecommerce experts” who have never moved a parcel; “payment experts” who does not understand MDR; and (this is really the best) “Southeast Asia experts” who has never been to Jakarta.
Too often, incompetent people are assuming the position of power (in this case the tech scene in SEA, be it self-proclaimed startup experts, VCs, tech entrepreneurs and founders). Like impostors and pretenders in olden days, they are sweet talkers who are often able to lead investors, customers and employees to dance to their music (towards the cliff). These impostors get rich in the process, but often when the music stops, their victims fall off the cliff. So how to tell if this person is an impostor, not a real expert?
Here are the signs to look out for:
1. Fails to answer any question with substance and repeats the same buzz words every time
Having spoken to numerous people in the crypto-currency space, we have found ourselves speaking to many “experts” who only until recently started to trade or invest in crypto. Hats off to them, they managed to turn around their lives, but when poked for more details as to how much they have invested, and for more juicy stories, they turn around and laugh it off.
Another way you can easily tell if this person has substance is to look out for common jargon used in the industry. Our experience tells us that while frauds love to parrot jargons, ideas or topics repeatedly, the real experts tell real stories that come from their experience – giving details. Of course again, you need to be in the know more than others first, to tell if the other is not. Otherwise, Momentum Works would not be in business.
2. Does nothing else but speaking at conferences
Then there are the “founders” who attend every conference, and somehow you decided to meet them later for coffee to discuss about their business. If the founder is unable to discuss in detail what his or her company has done, and unable to tell strategically what needs to be done, what are the missing pieces in the business, then in our opinion this is a tell-tale sign of a fraud.
We are not saying that by merely attending conferences these “experts” or “founders” are bullshitters (events are a great place to network, raise awareness for what you do and learn what is going on in the industry), but you catch the drift. In our line of work, we meet all sorts of people and being entrepreneurs ourselves we can tell you honestly – your funding gives you a limited runway to build your business. You are either focused on your business, or you are not (brand building excuses aside, for most startups, brand building is not done at conferences).
3. Never been to the country in discussion (or worked in the related field) but acting like an expert
Nothing tells others more about this type of fraud, other than they do not put their money where their mouth is. We have bumped into our fair share of connections who comment free-handedly on subjects they have no idea about, or countries that they have not been to – merely putting in assumptions that hold no value. Nothing is worse than this, but the good part is that you will quickly find out about it as they crumble under simple questioning – like “What did you like about the country?” or perhaps a more direct one like “How long have you been in the field?”
4. Well rehearsed profile on social media
Many recruiters are drawn towards a well-designed social media profile on LinkedIn. Who would not believe what they read, when this person is high-profile, well-known in various circles, and perhaps advising more than 600 Fortune 500 countries. What is often lacking is tangible achievements, or real work done. From our experience, if you are judging a character from looking at his or her LinkedIn you should always doubt what you read. Impostors are masters at selling themselves.
If you suspect someone of being a impostor, and he or she meets the criteria we shared here, you should think twice about investing, taking investment from, or working with them.
When all seems convincing, ask yourself if you can be convinced on the vision, and the business model?
Thanks for reading The Low Down, insight and inside knowledge from the team at Momentum Works. If you’d like to get in touch with us about any issues discussed in our blog, please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can help.