Friday, March 13, 2009

Don't Forget Your Strengths

I've gotten a lot of advice on my slide deck for the NWEN First Look Forum competition. So much advice, in fact, that I followed it too well.

The first versions of my business plan and my pitch deck were so focused on the product, the technology, and all the cool things that we're doing for customers, that I neglected to talk enough about the business. I talked about how the technology scaled, but not how the business scaled. As one of my advisors said, investors will assume your technology will scale -- they want to know how the company can grow to be a billion dollar business. And I'd made the same mistake in other areas. The pitch deck (and the pitch that goes with it), initially had a lot less about the business side of the business than the business plan, so, off I went, removing technical stuff, and fleshing out the business side. It was looking pretty good.

Then, I went to my first coaching session with my NWEN advisors. We went through the whole deck and they gave me a lot of great feedback. When we were done, they asked a few questions, including a key one -- what's exciting about this? When I explained what I thought was exciting, they both responded, practically in unison, why isn't that in the pitch? It turns out that I had over-corrected, by a long shot. I had spent so much time working on my weaknesses that I had given my strengths short shrift. I wanted to make sure that everybody knew the business was solid, that I had basically left out what was exciting about the business in the first place.

In the final deck, I lead with the big vision and the long-term plan that is a key part of the excitement, then I segue to the first product and the customer pain that it's all about. The pain is a bit less exciting, but it's compelling. Elsewhere in the deck, I make sure to revisit the things about the business that I think make it really exciting. And, I try to talk about technology only where it directly relates to customer pain, solutions, or growth. The result is a significantly better pitch.


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