By Bill Reichert
Garage Technology Ventures
Editor’s note: Bill Reichert is one of a group of venture capitalists, business leaders and entrepreneurs who will be participating in the IBM SmartCamp competition world finals this week (Jan. 31, Feb. 1 and 2) in San Francisco. Nine startups from around the world will compete for fame and expert advice. To follow the event virtually, return to A Smarter Planet for liveblogging, view livestreaming video and follow the Twitter hashtags #IBM SmartCamp and #startups.
If you have only a few seconds to communicate the essence of your company to a potential investor, what do you say?
When confronted with this question, many entrepreneurs will try to pack the six or eight key points of their business plan into 120 words—too often producing 60 seconds of unintelligible tech gibberish and a cloud of hyperbole.
Most entrepreneurs should just throw out their elevator pitches and start over. If you really want to get your message across, you need to craft three or four sentences that can be spoken by a normal human, and can be understood by a normal human and that really capture the essence of what makes your company so compelling. You need a “Wow! Statement.”
The principles of crafting a Wow! Statement are the same as those for all persuasive communications: Be clear, be credible and be compelling.
Be clear: Your listener needs to understand in simple, specific terms what the heck you are talking about. Most entrepreneurs go too high and too abstract, or get way down in the weeds with technical jargon.
Be credible: Too many entrepreneurs destroy their credibility by using empty superlatives–over-hyping their value proposition or over-stating their potential. Instead, let the investor know if there is something impressive you have already accomplished that enhances your credibility, such as landing an impressive customer or winning a prestigious award.
Be compelling: Your product or service has to represent a dramatic improvement over the current state of the art, not just a nice incremental improvement. And you have to be clearly differentiated from the competition. One of the best ways to do this is by offering up a simple metric, such as: “We can demonstrate a 10x improvement in price-performance, based on our initial customer results.”
Your Wow! Statement is the front end of your effort to persuade others. Keep it simple, crisp and easy to understand. It should fit nicely into your e-mail introductions, your executive summary, your pitch, your Website and other communications. Don’t be afraid to revise it as you learn and make progress, and your situation changes. But always keep it short and clean.