Startup experts agree on importance of friends, family and advisors

A panel of startup experts agree on the importance of having family and friends for support, but that it’s crucial to have a trusted group of business advisors. 

There can be overlap between these groups, but panelists stressed that any serious advisors must be more than an echo chamber. They spoke yesterday as part of the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Conference in Madison. 

“I think one of the traps that entrepreneurs can get into, and especially in the early stages, is relying on a self-affirming focus group,” said Jennifer Javornick, vice president of sales for Madison-based Filament Games. “Lo and behold, the people around you love you and want you to succeed and think you’re a special little unicorn, so they will give you advice that maybe is biased.” 

She recommends keeping close friends close, but says when it comes to getting advice on business decisions, a formal or informal advisory board can’t be beat. 

Madison-based HealthX Ventures CEO Mark Bakken says “there is no recipe” for those you ask for help, but experience doesn’t hurt. 

“Every situation is unique and different,” he said. “Have good people around you, if you can, that hopefully have gotten to the other side and have learned a bunch of things.” 

Evan Wing, CEO of Fall River-based tech company HMA Fire, says “the more opinions you can get, probably the better.” 

“Talk to people that you think may not like the idea too, because even if they’re going to say no or whatever, they’re going to trigger something… you’re going to think about that,” Wing said.