Most elevator pitches are terrible. They try to do too much with too little time. Startups should think of them as teasers, not my 60 minute pitch in 15 seconds.
I started thinking about the elevator pitch this week after I received a PPT makeover candidate. I did do a makeover on their slides, which I will blog about in the next week or so. They had generally good looking slides, but the material was so heavy with words, I just kept thinking, “What are you trying to say?”
Here is their elevator pitch. It captured the issues I was having with the overall preso. Note: their bolding, not mine.
Product XYZ is a new generation Productivity suite that is connected to all the services that you already rely on : IM (gtalk, msn, twitter,…), Mobile (Nokia, iPhone, soon Blackberry and Windows Mobile), Email, Desktop (Adobe AIR application), and allows you to Collaborate with your colleagues thanks to exclusive and intuitive social features.
Two things seem to be happening here. One, they don’t communicate the value of their product (ie, pain relief) to the customer. Second, they are tripping over buzzwords.
First Attempt: Let’s try to make this plain english, and really extract the unique value proposition:
Product XYZ is a suite of collaboration web apps that is different from competitors because:
- It integrates directly with existing IM services, email and mobile phones.
- It’s offered as software as a service versus installed software.
- It connects with the major social networks.
I think this is easier to understand, but it is still “wrong”, as it is talking about how they built it, versus how it benefits the customer. I don’t know the product well enough to be accurate with this next attempt, but that has never stopped me.
Second Attempt: Let’s focus on pain versus how they solve it.
Collaboration applications have been left behind. Bloated install software, not integrated with the mainstay tools of business users like IM, email and mobile phones. And perhaps worst of all, today’s collaboration software is alarmingly unconnected to the social web. Product XYZ is different.
Third Attempt: What about poking a hole in the collaboration software market itself?
The primary competition for collaboration software like WebEx is substitutes: mainstream communication apps combined with social networks. Product XYZ is a different web collaboration service. It attacks this major market vulnerability by harnessing IM, email, and mobile phones and working with a users’ social network.
We still don’t know exactly what they do (which is true…I have never seen a demo), and you could argue I am still hypey with buzzwords like “social network” and “harnessing” and “market vulnerability”, but the audience are certainly hungrier to see the demo and see if Product XYZ pulls it off.
With Xobni, we typically combine both of these techniques. Here is a sample of what we might tell a potential investor:
MSFT’s Outlook is a massive mess of an application, and yet has over 400M users and an ecosystem over $10B. Xobni makes a plugin that makes Outlook suck much less. We add lightning fast search that knows the difference between a person and an email. And we automatically combine email addresses with rich profile data from the web like Facebook and Linkedin profiles. After just a couple of minutes using Xobni, like TiVo for your TV, it will be hard to use your inbox without it. Let me show you what I mean.
Often times, I edit this down even further. Again, I just need to earn the chance to tell them more, not to close the deal during the 15 seconds. This has been successful for me so far.
Anyway, I am curious to hear your thoughts on how to improve the startup elevator pitch, and certainly open to better examples.