4. Talk about what you’ve done, not what you’re going to do.
Weak startups and their leaders seem to immediately start talk about “what’s next,” as opposed to focusing on the core product. Anyone can say we’re going to add: a mobile version, collaborative filtering, an advertising network, visualizations, a marketplace, a browser plugin, a browser and a social network to their product. In fact, given the amount of open source and off the shelf software out there, combined with the large number of developers in the world, anyone can bolt these things on to their service in a week or three.
Jason was advising on how to demo a product, but this applies equally to investment pitches.
Only people with good stories can talk about what they’ve done. Anyone can make up stuff they are going to do in the future. Obviously the more mature a company is the more stuff there is in the past that can be talked about, but founders of super early and idea stage companies can still follow this advice. They should put their plans into context by talking about the things they did to inform them.
Two examples from founders we’ve backed. First was Matt Fox, founder of Snaptrip. When he told us about his plans for a last minute cottage holiday site he referenced his previous experience at Pure Holiday Homes, describing what he’d done before gave us a lot of confidence that he could do something similar again. Second was Ben Farren, founder of Spoke. The thing I remember most from our first meeting was him describing his customer service challenges in a previous iteration of the business and the insights they gave him into what men want from a clothing brand.