A startup founder needs to speak at least two different languages. And
I'm not talking about speaking Chinese and English, or Ruby and Java.
Those are nice, but definitely not essential. What I'm talking about
are the languages "customer" and "investor."
assumed that you came up with a single vision of what your company was
doing, and that everyone would understand it. One consistent vision
internally and externally - boy was I naive. It all started to gel
when we decided to switch directions with our product. We were feeling
sort of lost, so we had a conversation with our seed investor. He
mentioned "demand pricing." We were excited - this was going to be the
next big thing. The problem was that when we started to actually discuss this with our
potential customers, they had no idea what we were talking about. The
concept was completely foreign to them, and even when they understood
it, they didn't really like the idea. So we asked them what they
wanted, and we built that. When we showed the product to them, they
seemed pretty happy, and wanted to buy it. But then we talked to some
potential investors, and they were completely lukewarm about the same
things customers had loved. "Sure you can make some money on that, but your sales model is too
hard to scale, and it's not a big enough idea. It isn't going to be
the next Google." This confused us. How are we supposed to build
something that our customers want AND that investors want to invest
in? Then it hit me - we need to say the same thing in multiple ways.
You tell the investors one thing, and the customers a different.
Essentially you're saying the same thing, but in terms that each can
understand and relate to (I'm in no way advocating lying to either).
One wants a huge potential market opportunity, while the other wants a
product that is useful for them. If you do it just right, everyone ends up happy. The customer gets
what they want, and the investor gets a long-term vision that they can
invest in. And you as the startup founder only need to do a bit of