06/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Adeo Ressi's Advice to Entrepreneurs at Founder Institute Lunch

Adeo Ressi is an eight-time entrepreneur and founder of The Funded, the largest community of startups in the world. Over 14,000 CEOs talk anonymously to share experiences and to rate venture capitalists.

Ressi spoke to a group of new, future and experienced entrepreneurs at the Founder Institute Community Lunch in Boulder on April 21st.

"Ideas don't matter," Ressi said, getting everyone's attention with that surprising statement.

"People think the idea is important, but your idea will change 10 times before you get to where you want to go. What matters is who you are - what you are passionate about. Your passion will keep you going, not the idea."

Ressi recommended having at least three ideas for a venture, and then talking to about 30 people a week about your ideas to get feedback and input on your ideas.

"Find people who will tell you the truth," Ressi said. He likened it to a friend who told Ressi to shave his head: "It's time, man, you're doing a comb-over thing." You need people who will be blunt, Ressi said.

Ressi then invited entrepreneurs to present their company pitch, and he gave (very honest!) feedback about their ideas. Ressi's forthrightness helped everyone to understand what makes a good pitch.

In a nutshell, Ressi's tips were:
1) Tell a story, not random stats & facts
2) Explain enough about your business so that listeners understand how you will be making money
3) Don't talk about an exit strategy unless you're pitching to VCs.

Ressi advised founders to bootstrap as long as possible and to not take on outside money so that won't be beholden to VCs. "You want to keep control of your company," Ressi said. VCs may force you to take steps that aren't necessarily best for your company but that give them a good exit path.

Ressi's Founder Institute will be running its four-month program in Boulder/Denver starting May 4, 2010. Unlike seed accelerators like Techstars, where entrepreneurs submit an idea and then spend the summer full-time immersed in their ventures, The Founder Institute runs evening programs and encourages founders to keep their day jobs while developing their ideas.

Founder Institute graduates Jed White and Jo White of TribeVibe lauded the peer-to-peer connections they made during the program -- connections which continue long after the program ends.

Applications for the next Boulder/Denver Founder Institute program are due Sunday, April 25, 2010. For more information, see:

For a related post, see "How to Impress a Venture Capitalist" featuring Jason Mendelson, Managing Director of the Foundry Group.