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Once Upon a Pitch Problem #13
“So, what do you think?” the medical device entrepreneur asked after finishing a quick pitch during one of my open online pitch practice sessions. So I thought, I think that is a terrible question. “In regard to what exactly so I can be helpful to you?” I replied. “Do you think the business is a good idea?” Turning that question over in my mind, I pondered in exactly what world would I ever be qualified to opine on a medical device idea? I sighed.
The only opinions that matter. The quality of an idea for a new business has only two reviewers that matter: the customer problem and the customer. The nexus between the customer problem and the customer’s willingness to pay for something new to fix that problem (the startup business idea) is where the answer lies as to whether the business is a good idea. This nexus is the birthplace of great businesses. The fundamentals of the customer problem, the size of the problem, the amount of pain the customer feels, and the ease to which the customer will take action to relieve that pain by using the new product determine the value of the idea. No one else’s opinion matters.
“Until one day . . ..” A startup upends the status quo when the business solution solves the customer problem, removing bottlenecks, creating new opportunities, and changing everything. Only a person steeped in the status quo can see both the revolution caused by that solution as well as the intensity of the status quo’s resistance. Storytelling your business to an investor audience is not the same thing as building the rigorous, fundamental business case for your idea. Storytelling cannot transform a bad business idea into a good one; only diligence and expertise can reveal an idea’s quality.
Not all feedback is created equal. Feedback is the lifeblood of business development and pitch deck building (and greatness, while we are on the topic). Presenting an entire business in 5-10 minutes with 8-10 slides is hard, a painful labor of love and anguish. If one person could opine on all aspects of a business pitch, there would be no need for financial analysts, VCs, private equity, angel investors, accelerators, incubators, or even entrepreneurship programs. That singular Business King Solomon would anoint winners and banish losers. Startups require expert feedback from all over the business, communications and culture spectrums, from industry, to strategy, research and analysis, global expansion, customer acquisition, human resources, regulatory and legal, revenue development, operations, investment, economics, and zeitgeist, as well as graphic design and communications. Seek advice only from experts that have knowledge and experience in the area of your deck that you are working on, add that feedback to the unique mix of information in your brain, then seek your next expert, add that guidance, and keep seeking and adding, leveling up the business and your personal development as you go. Feedback from the wrong person on the wrong topic can irretrievably lead you astray. Frame your questions to always match that person’s expertise, then add that credible feedback into your mix.
What They Said
You meet a woman named Joan at a party and find her personable and easy to talk to. Now her name comes up as someone who could be asked to contribute to a charity. What do you know about Joan’s generosity? The correct answer is that you know virtually nothing, because there is little reason to believe that people who are agreeable in social situations are also generous contributors to charities. But you like Joan and you will retrieve the feeling of liking her when you think of her. You also like generosity and generous people. By association, you are now predisposed to believe that Joan is generous. And now that you believe she is generous, you probably like Joan even better than you did earlier, because you have added generosity to her pleasant attributes.
Real evidence of generosity is missing in the story of Joan, and the gap is filled by a guess that fits one’s emotional response to her. - Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, “Exaggerated Emotional Coherence (Halo Effect),” page 82.
See You on the Track
Author The First Principles Pitch, startup storyteller, board member, advisor and investor. Once Upon a Pitch is a weekly newsletter looking at one business pitch problem and offering storytelling solutions to help solve that problem.
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