Navigating an Unsexy Market Through the Sexy Startupsphere

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In a niche that doesn't immediately resonate with most folks in the startup scene? The co-founders of a company that helps older adults make connections to others in their community have tips. By Marcie Rogo and Monica Birdsong (Co-founders, ConnectAround.com)

“This sounds great but it’s not for us.”

“Hmm… interesting. [silence]”

“You’re monetizing with 300 users? That is too little for startups.”

Have you heard those or something similar before? Yep, so have we and that’s just from some (uninformed) investors. We’re not even “cool” enough to have a popular shared workspace in LA host an aging/tech networking event. We asked and the answer was “this sounds great, but it's not an event that's right for us.” We are members of Silicon Beach, or at least we thought we were, but we’re not quite “cool” enough to bring aging into the official mix? It was really a tough pill to swallow and there is still a little bitterness from being made to feel like the last kids picked on the playground.

When, like us, you are not targeting people in their 20s and you didn’t just create a new technology that makes ordering food easier or is the “new Instagram for cat memes” or “hack for” mailbox organization or lets you sext (with friends), it can make you feel like an outcast. We face more rejection because most people in the startup scene don’t instantly connect with the problem we are solving. Here are some tips we’ve learned the past year to overcome these feelings and eventually get back on the playground….

Consider Your Audience

People like to feel smart. If they understand your idea, they’ll compliment you on it – and if they don’t, they won’t (because this might be admitting they don’t know something). Just remember who you’re talking to and ask yourself: should I be worried by this answer? Does this person have a real understanding of my business and target market? The answer, 99.9% of the time, is NO. You’re fine. For us, older adults are sexy but not all people agree. We should all keep going.

Find Other People in Your Market in the Tech Scene

They’re out there! In our case, the overlap is slim, so when we find each other via emerging organizations like Aging 2.0. We get giddy and want to help each other out. It feels like a special club with secret un-crowded niches and open roads to collaboration.

Continue Confidently Networking

Once you have your collaborators, be sure to remember how awesome you are, and then talk about it. When we talk about our target market proudly and confidently, are unapologetic about a tech startup targeting older adults, and have the facts to back it up, intelligent people are immediately drawn to us. They ask questions and they will take a meeting. We’ve gotten three huge meetings with investors in Silicon Beach, all because we know so much about this “unknown” market.

Rinse and Repeat

You’ll have to follow at least twice as many networking events, blogs, vlogs, twitter feeds, and FB groups. Think of this, however, as having twice as many networks to find users, PR, investors, and partners.

So now, when you walk into a startup event and pitch your idea and everyone claps and then is silent, don’t let that get you down. The smart ones come up to you after and say “WOW, that is a great idea. Please keep me in the loop.” This is how we ended up meeting each other.

Oh, and about that event that wasn’t cool enough for the popular Silicon Beach space…  It was ultimately held at USC and connected 60+ people that night. #thatssexy

Women 2.0 readers: Do you have any other tips to get people who aren't the target market for your startup excited about your company?

About the guest bloggers: Marcie Rogo is the founder of ConnectAround and has a passion for the aging population.  Backed with her corporate consulting and assisted living experience, she made it her determination to launch a business for the aging population to help them safely connect in a fun and interactive environment that keeps them stimulated and promotes in-person activity.   Monica Birdsong is the technical co-founder of ConnectAround. Monica brings high standards and high-tech experience to ConnectAround. If you’ve used Macy’s bridal registry, WeddingChannel.com or gotten an insurance quote from AAA, you’ve seen what she is capable of building. She earned her BS in Computer Information Systems at Missouri State University. Photo credit: ruurmo via Flickr.