Hey, New Startup Founders: You Need a Good Answer to This Question


  • As a founder, you will often hear this question from people who are in a position to help you grow your business.
  • A bad answer closes the door to further engagement. It asks for too much right away, or for something the person would likely do anyway. It gives them no meaningful way to help you.
  • On the other hand, a good answer to this question is open-ended. It allows the other person to engage their creativity about how best to support your work. It plants the seeds from which a long-term relationship can grow.

Don’t Close the Door

An example of not making the best use of your answer would be something like, “I’m beginning to fundraise for my startup. Do you know any investors to introduce me to?” (Yes, those were my exact words, which I used many times.)

Operating With Intention

True power lies in thinking through your answer to this question before engaging with people you want to learn from. If you can’t articulate what you need, how would you recognize the solution if it came your way? If you think back to times you’ve helped someone with a challenge, lending a hand was probably a lot easier if the person could articulate what they were facing and why it was a challenge. If they could, then your fresh set of eyes and past experience probably ended up being invaluable to someone who was stuck on a problem.

Set Clear Goals to Drive Intention

To come up with a great answer to the question of how someone can help me, I need to think carefully about the challenges I’m currently up against. For me, this becomes much easier when I regularly set goals. I set three small goals each day, between three and five weekly goals that are a bit bigger, and I’ve recently started setting major goals for the year ahead annually on my birthday.

Stay Specific

I have also found that having “How can I be of help?” in my back pocket when I meet new people is a great way to focus the conversation into action. I’m able to learn more about the person that I’m talking to and offer a hand.



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Jacqueline Jensen is a COO, former venture-backed startup founder, TEDx speaker, author, and Royal Society of Arts Fellow.