Twenty-five-year-old Kyu Lee is one of the rising stars in the tech community. As founder and CEO of Wiselike, he has created a website where anyone can create their own “Ask Me Anything” page to better brand themselves.It takes only a quick visit to Wiselike to realize the caliber of the people on Kyu’s platform. Nobel Prize winners, New York Times bestsellering writers, Harvard professors, world-renowned doctors, and successful tech entrepreneurs are all part of Wiselike, and the level of expertise and thought leadership has been growing daily as new users with significant accomplishments join the community.
But Kyu’s userbase is not the only impressive community he has been able to attract. Wiselike is a startup backed by some of the world’s brightest investors, like GGV Capital, a $2 billion fund that has invested in companies like Airbnb, Pandora, Flipboard, and Misfit. Dave McClure’s 500 Startups, a GoPro executive, and about a dozen others are also part of the investment team.
Wiselike’s staff includes former product lead at TIBCO (a $4 billion company) and a former director at Mashable. His advisory team includes leaders from Facebook, Google, and Twitter.
In other words, this 25-year-old knows how to attract the best people, whether it’s investors, advisers, employees, co-founders, or users.
But what is perhaps most impressive is that Kyu has been able to attract all these types of people in a short time. Just a few years ago, he was in college at UCLA, with an entrepreneurial desire, but literally no knowledge or network that could help him be where he is today.
So what’s the secret behind his success?
1. Never be afraid to ask.
Kyu believes that having the courage to ask is one of the important traits an entrepreneur must have. Kyu says you really can’t be afraid of asking or of rejection. If you are, fundraising and recruiting are going to be huge challenges.
Kyu remembers a particular incident when Wiselike hadn’t even launched, but he wanted impressive people on the site when it went live. So he went out on a limb and emailed a Grammy winner asking if he would join the site–and got an immediate “yes.”
Of course, not everything is going to be that easy, but the main point is, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. This is hard for new entrepreneurs who may not be used to putting themselves out there or have not faced much rejection, but it absolutely gets easier. Just go out and ask!
2. When you do ask, you need to explain why anyone should say yes.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s actually something a lot of people forget. When you ask someone for something, the natural human tendency is to think you are asking for a favor, or burdening the other person. But remember, when you ask, you are asking if this person would be interested in a partnership that is mutually beneficial.
Don’t go into an investor meeting thinking, “I hope this investor is nice and will take a chance on me.”
Don’t go into a recruiting meeting and say, “This person is way too overqualified to work with me. I don’t think I can hire this person.”
Don’t go into a customer meeting with the mindset, “If I try really hard to please them, maybe they will buy my product.”
Having this attitude from the get-go will make it obvious you are asking for a favor. People are not going to do you big favors. You’ve got to tell them why they should invest or work with you.
Kyu remembers the first few investor meetings he had. He was extremely nervous and clearly remembers saying “please” when asking for money. To no one’s surprise, he got rejected. He started seeing a shift when he really started to believe that investing in his company was going to be the best thing an investor could do.
This mindset is particularly true for acquiring users. Users aren’t going to use your product because they like you. Your closest friends may sign up, but even they won’t last on your product if you don’t give them value.
3. Be nice. Seriously.
This is also a big one that Kyu refuses to ignore. Attracting the best people, or anyone for that matter, is largely dependent on how nice you are. No matter what you say, or how great you may be, if you are not nice, people are not going to want to support you. It’s really hard to root for someone you don’t get along with.
Kyu believes that in business, nice guys don’t always finish last. In fact, they often win.
I’ve cold-emailed billionaires, politicians, and tech moguls. I’m consistently surprised at the kind of responses I receive. A lot of them give amazing advice and show their support for my endeavors. It’s something I don’t forget because they had absolutely no obligation to do so.
This, Kyu believes, is no coincidence. Nicer people have a greater probability of success because people naturally gravitate toward them. You want to support them, you want to invest in them, you want to use their product.
Say what you want about him, but that’s why Donald Trump is a great businessman.
He is nice to those he works with, or as he puts it, “I’m a businessman, it’s my job to get along with everybody.”
4. At the end of the day, your product is most important. So focus on it!
It is all you have. Being nice can only take you so far. Your product is the crux of what is important.
Presidential candidates are very similar to entrepreneurs.
They need to raise money, they need to hire a world-class team, and they need people who will vote for them. They can ask all they want, they can persuade all they want, but if their product is weak, they are never going to win. And for them, their product is “what they will do for America.”
As an entrepreneur and product owner, you need to convince people that it is worth the investment of time and energy. With that, everything else will follow. Don’t get too distracted with things other than your product.
If you feel you are an expert in a particular subject matter, you can create your own profile on Wiselike and have people ask you questions. Or you can subscribe to and ask experts like Guy Kawasaki, Siri, or even me for their particular take on a question you’ve always wanted answered.
Have you created a product that had such high demand? Were you able to attract a world class network and team? How were you able to do it? Comment below!
Originally posted on Inc.
Leonard Kim is Managing Partner at InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Leonard and his team teach you how to build your (personal or business) brand, get featured in publications and growth hack your social media following.