Young entrepreneurs often are so excited by new technology or their latest invention that they forget to translate it into a value proposition that their customers or potential investors can understand and relate to. They become frustrated with investors, senior executives and even customers who do not seem to “get it,” with the result that everyone loses.
Senior business leaders, for example, are unlikely to relate when you pitch your latest web app, highlighting the mashup technology, which you derived from early online social networking applications. Mashup probably reminds senior leaders of a train wreck, and social networking is still seen by many business executives as a frivolous waste of time.
It is really your responsibility and your advantage to translate your message into values and priorities that the intended receiver can readily relate to and understand. Here are some key priorities that will resonate with every business leader I know:
1. Ability to adapt quickly to changing requirements. Every business leader knows how difficult it is to keep up with a changing market. If you can quickly explain how mashup technology facilities this agility challenge, the technology may quickly turn from a negative to a major positive. This priority applies to big companies, as well as startups.
2. Customer data integrity and security. Customer data, as well as internal data, is a key resource for every business that must be secured and protected. If your message starts with a focus on this priority and related costs, the technology will likely be appreciated and valued, rather than challenged.
3. Personal privacy assurances. Customers are always looking for a better user experience, and they do not want their privacy compromised. Before you focus a senior decision maker on your new cloud technology and distributed data, make sure he or she understands how it will lower user privacy exposures, rather than increase them.
4. Reduce litigation risks and support costs. Senior decision makers often see new technologies as new opportunities for litigation and hackers. You need to address these concerns early, by highlighting patents, encryption capability or other features, which mitigate these risks and costs. Skip the acronyms and implementation details.
5. Payback on investment. Every business executive wants to understand how each new investment in technology relates to his or her bottom line. Quantifying the return on investment (ROI) is “top of mind” for every investor and executive. Entrepreneurs who make this case effectively will get the decision they want, no matter how esoteric their technology.
6. Ability to integrate with existing apps. New applications that cannot communicate with existing data and applications are often more of a problem than a solution. Mashup technology may be your biggest plus, if you position it in this context. Highlight the mashup use of existing friendly interfaces, and use of existing data in a new solution.
I challenge every entrepreneur to see how many of these priorities they can integrate into their new technology solution elevator pitch. You may be able to turn a potential train wreck into a win-win decision for both you and the investor or customer. In any case, it pays to do your homework on the background and experience of the decision maker you face. Do not assume their understanding of technology is commensurate with yours.
Entrepreneurs need to remember that every investment decision, whether by professional investors or customer executives, is ultimately a financial decision, not a technology decision, driven by limited funds. If you can translate your technology power into a solution that satisfies key business goals, you will win the investors you need, as well as the customers you need to make your startup a success.
Technology is the means, not the end.
Image credit: CC by Marta Sánchez