Backable – Suneel Gupta Book Summary

Backable – Suneel Gupta | Free Book Summary

Backable – Suneel Gupta

In his book Backable, Suneel Gupta argues that the key to success in business isn’t talent, connections, or ideas – it’s the ability to persuade people to take a chance on your ideas.

Drawing lessons from hundreds of the world’s biggest thinkers, he shows readers how to craft a story that will make your ideas irresistible, and teaches techniques that will help you overcome objections, close deals, and bring your ideas to life. 

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Gupta shares his own experiences of failure and success, and provides readers with valuable advice and tools to help them make their ideas backable.

The Premise: What you want to do while pitching a new idea

No one makes it alone. But there’s a reason why some people can get investors or bosses to believe in them while others cannot. And that reason has little to do with experience, pedigree or a polished business plan. Backable people seem to have a hidden quality that inspires others to take action. We often chalk this up to natural talent or charisma . . . either you have ‘it’ or you don’t.Free book, podcast summaries

After getting rejected by every investor he pitched, Suneel Gupta had a burning question: could ‘it’ be learned?

Drawing lessons from hundreds of the world’s biggest thinkers, Suneel discovered how to pitch new ideas in a way that has raised millions of dollars, influenced large-scale change inside massive corporations, and even convinced his 8-year-old daughter to clean her room.

Step 1: Convince Yourself First

What moves people isn’t charisma, but conviction. Backable people earnestly believe in what they’re saying, and they simply let that belief shine through whatever style feels most natural.

If you don’t truly believe in what you’re saying, there is no slide fancy enough, no hand gesture compelling enough, to save you. If you want to convince others, you must convince yourself first.

So, as you’re figuring out whether an idea fits you, ask yourself if you’ve fallen in love with it. And as you dig in deeper, keep checking in with your elephant, paying attention to whether new challenges are fueling you or depleting you.

Step 2: Cast A Central Character

As individuals, we’re wired to care about the stories of individuals. This goes back to life around the campfire—it’s in our DNA. When a movie makes us emotional, it’s typically because we feel connected to a specific character—rather than the ensemble.

Great storytellers don’t just focus on a central character, but also a central reader. Instead of addressing millions of people, they’ll imagine they’re sharing the story with one specific person.

Step 3: Find An Earned Secret

How you arrive at an idea can be as important and meaningful as the idea itself.

So when you’re sharing the insight that led you to your idea, ask yourself, Is this google-able? If it is, then take your research deeper. Set up interviews with experts, take a trip, join a nonprofit that’s relevant to your idea. If you’re interested in cryptocurrency, don’t just read a report; set up an account and start making trades.

If you’re interested in autonomous vehicles, don’t just subscribe to a newsletter; visit a factory, drive a car. If you’re interested in cannabis, well…in a growing number of states you now have options.

Once you’ve gone beyond Google, make sure your pitch demonstrates your effort. Don’t share just your idea, but the effort as well—the work you did in the field that brought you to it. This might sound obvious, but it’s often missed.

Step 4: Make It Feel Inevitable

Loss aversion can help us understand a lot about our colleagues, our friends, and ourselves. It helps us understand why a driver with no history of car accidents pays Avis extra for collision insurance. It helps us understand why someone holds on to a downward-trending stock so that the paper loss doesn’t turn into an actual loss.

And it can also explain why backers are reluctant to invest in anything that doesn’t feel safe. Even venture capitalists who look for risky investments turn down the overwhelming majority of new ideas they hear. Instagram, Facebook, and Amazon were rejected by multiple investors.

If the fear of betting on the wrong idea is twice as powerful as the pleasure of betting on the right idea, then we can’t neutralize the fear of losing with the pleasure of winning. We can only neutralize the fear of losing with…the fear of losing.

The fear of missing out

Enter FOMO, the fear of missing out. For backers, the only thing equally powerful to missing is…missing out. No one wants to be the Hollywood studio that passed on Star Wars, the university that rejected Albert Einstein, or the executive at Blockbuster who passed on buying Netflix for $50 million.

We see FOMO play out everywhere. Once a founder has a lead investor, other investors want to join the round. Once an employee has a competing job offer, he or she is much more likely to receive a raise. Once a real estate agent has an offer, he’s more likely to attract other offers.

Step 5: Flip Outsiders To Insiders

Backable people highlight three steps to showing backers they are a pivotal part of your plan.

  • First, identify a gap in your idea that relates directly to a strength in your backer. A gap could be anything from needing to figure out the right marketing strategy to hiring the right people.
  • Second, learn as much as possible before your meeting. Although you will be highlighting a gap, you still want to be able to engage your backer with the right questions and discussion. This takes preparation.
  • Finally, when you meet with your backer, be sure to directly express the “story of us.” Explain how your gap and their strength fit together to unlock your idea. Don’t assume that they’ll connect the dots. Even if they do, it’s worth them knowing that you understand why you two fit well together.

Step 6: Play Exhibition Matches

If you play enough exhibition matches, you’ll start to see patterns in the feedback. Sometimes you’ll come to the realization that your entire pitch isn’t working. Instead of throwing away your dream, have the courage to reboot your style and begin again. Nearly every successful person has done this. Want proof? Search for an old speech of someone you admire and notice how their communication style has changed.

Looking back, Obama says that it was losing an election that showed him how to win. “It taught me the importance of campaigning not based on a bunch of whitepapers and policy prescriptions but telling a story,” he said. That wisdom helped rebrand Obama from neighborhood politician to a national leader. But none of that would have happened had he not been willing to reinvent his own style.

Step 7: Let Go Of Your Ego

When you walk into a room to present your idea, the spotlight is on you. Your job is to turn that spotlight away from you and toward your message.

There’s a difference between customizing your pitch and shoehorning it into something it’s not. Even if the shoehorning works and the backer says yes, it almost always leads to issues downstream. Investors pull out when the roadmap isn’t what they expected.

Films get axed in post-production because there wasn’t a shared vision in pre-production. R&D projects get derailed in phase 2 because the vision wasn’t fully expressed during phase 1.

Call To Action: The Game Of Now

Every backable person at some point in their career, learns to play the Game of Now.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”

Now, more than ever, we need good people to stop playing the Game of Someday and start playing the Game of Now. That begins with you.

The craziest ideas—the ones that are most likely to change the world—are often the hardest ones to sell. But that doesn’t mean we stop trying. We build the skills and invest the energy to make ourselves backable. And we realize, as all backable people eventually do, that when you get dismissed, there is always another room.

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