3 Startup Lessons We Learned from 500 Startups Partner Marvin Liao

500 Startups Partner Marvin Liao addresses the 12 Taiwan startups visiting San Francisco for TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015

500 Startups Partner Marvin Liao addresses the 12 Taiwan startups visiting San Francisco for TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015

In case you haven't heard, the Taiwan Startup Stadium team & 12 awesome Taiwan startups are currently in San Francisco for TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015! (Check out all 12 teams here.) While we're here, we're lucky to have the opportunity to gain insights from Bay Area companies, as well as our good friends at 500 Startups. Today, we had the chance to hammer 500 Startups Partner Marvin Liao for his sage advice for early stage startups. Here are the top 3 lessons we gleaned from Marvin's talk:

1. Don't build a solution in search of a problem.

According to Liao, too many engineers these days are building technologies that nobody wants or needs. Just because you have the technical skills to build something doesn't necessarily mean that it's worth building or that it's something that can grow into a viable business. Constantly ask yourself: What problem is your product is solving? Is this problem realistic, or simply a made-up problem to fit what you built? How many people truly experience this problem? How many of these people are willing to pay money to solve it? Answer these questions truthfully and you'll know whether you're wasting your talents on a solution the world can live without.

2.  Tell a good story.

As Liao tells it, good storytelling is an amazing talent among American founders that you typically won't find in founders from other countries. Although there are exception, this tends to be true even in Canada and other countries where English is the spoken language. Founders need to be able to sell their vision to investors, media, and partners in order to grow, and you can't do that without a good story. A good product is simply not enough. 

3. Do your homework.

If you want to be a player in the global startup ecosystem, you need to show that you've done your homework, which will save you the embarrassment of asking questions you should already know the answer to. "Don't ask me what companies I've invested in," Liao says. "Don't ask me how big our checks are -- my whole portfolio is on AngelList!" In short, while asking insightful questions can help you to make a good impression, demonstrating your ignorance of easily-Googled information can do just the opposite. Use the online tools at your disposal before you go into any meeting.

Want more insights from Marvin Liao? Check out John Kennedy's interview with the 500 Startups Partner on Silicon Republic.