There is one major piece of advice I always share with Founders, as I see a huge miss being made again and again: Don’t go small on your vision. You want to start off your pitch with a grand vision statement, even if it’s still far out of reach and the conditions aren’t even created yet. You want to make your potential investors wonder, how in the world are they going to achieve it? Then, and only then, you’re going to explain how it will be done.
And here you can think big – what will you be when you grow up as a company? How will you have created great change? What standard will you have set? Show them that you’re shooting far and shooting wide. With Elon Musk – it was never just about electric cars – the vision was always way beyond: energy will be cheap, abundant and sustainable; people will work in harmony with intelligent machines and even merge with them, and humans will become an interplanetary species. Cars were merely the initial driver.
To create that sense of wonder, you then need to break it down.
The Need is Needed
First you show a specific need in the market.
Tell the story of how you first noticed the need; maybe something that happened in your life, or in someone else’s life, or with one of your customers’ lives – before they met you, before they started using your product.
A simple story that illustrates the pain or the opportunity can be so profound that it will continue to resonate for years to come. I remember origin stories of companies I wrote pitches for over a decade ago because stories simply stick – and that’s what you want.
For example, the company EatWith (acq. by VizEat in 2017), which created an Airbnb-like hosting experience for home cooked meals, started from the founder’s origin story: On his honeymoon in Greece he was looking for an authentic eating experience, but all he found were tourist traps serving up Souvlaki, depicted on colorful wooden signs. He stopped a local woman and asked her where the locals ate – she said “at home of course!” He jokingly asked her how he could snag a reservation to that “restaurant” when she promptly invited him and his new wife for dinner. After the initial embarrassment, they agreed and showed up for what would prove to be the highlight of their trip. He told me that that’s how he wanted everyone to experience travel this way – and the seeds for Eatwith were planted.
After retelling this story for over a decade, I’ve probably altered it significantly but I can still see it in my mind, almost taste the food, and even though I wasn’t with them on the trip (obviously) I have the playback like I sat at that magical table with them. Stories stick and stories resonate.
It’s not easy – but it’s simple
Now that you’ve established the Vision (based on the origin story) and that it’s a Need or an Opportunity – you move on to your solution with a simple equation-like statement:
We’re doing X (solving a problem) for Y (a specific audience) by Z (your solution)
Translate your product into these three components and put them in a simple sentence.
For example, based on Google’s mission, and if I’m imagining a pitching scene of Larry and Sergey, they might have first shown the frustration of people searching for information in the early days of the internet, or even further back in the days when we actually had to go to a library! (For genZs, libraries used to be places with printed books in them where you went to do your research.)
Then came the simple solution statement, maybe something like:
“We have created an intuitive, user-friendly search engine for the internet that enables anyone to search for anything and get the best answers in milliseconds.”
That would have sure gotten VCs’ heads nodding in agreement.
Closing the circle – Back to the vision
After the vision, the problem, the solution, you then go through the business model, market stats and competitive analysis – but before you ask for funding, you should circle back to the Vision and dive into the areas where this will drive change. (Another Musk pun, sorry.)
Again, don’t be afraid to think far and big. Here’s a little trick to help you do that: envision yourself five years from now. Your hard work paid off, your dream turned into reality, and Paul Krugman is interviewing you about your company.
Explain how you have caused a shift in the market. Describe what you’ve done to improve the way people buy, communicate, or eat. Share the impact your innovation has on the lives of its users. In five years from now, you may not have solved global warming, but you’ll have given the world something that changed your customers’ lives in a way they can’t imagine going back to the old way of doing things.
Whatever it is, you need to get potential investors to realize the value of your product by painting that vision.
The magical moment when everything clicks together
Once you get investors excited about your solution and how it will mature into the vision you described, they will be genuinely interested in hearing what you actually do and how you intend to achieve your vision. This is where you start going from macro to micro.
Lay out every step of the way, what you need to fulfill each step, and how you intend to get what you need for each step.
So to recap: You start out with your BIG vision, trail back to the Origin Story, and then take your listeners on the full journey through facts and numbers. When you come back to the Vision, it all clicks together and ends in a magical moment.
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