Nivi · May 19th, 2008
“For investors, the product is nothing.”
Summary: A high concept pitch distills a startup’s vision into a single sentence. It’s the perfect tool for fans and investors who are spreading the word about your company.
Hollywood has perfected the art of the high concept pitch:
“Its Jaws in space!” (Alien)
“A bus with a bomb!” (Guess.)
“Snakes on a plane!” (Do I really have to spell it out for you.)
“A serial killer who bases murders on the seven deadly sins!” (Se7en)
“Bambi meets Terminator!” (Okay, I made this one up.)
High concept pitches for startups.
“Summarize the company’s business on the back of a business card,” says Sequoia. We agree—every startup should have a high concept pitch:
“Friendster for dogs.” (Dogster)
“Flickr for video.” (YouTube)
“We network networks.” (Cisco)
“The Firefox of media players.” (Songbird)
“Massively Multiplayer Online Learning.” (Grockit)
“The entrepreneurs behind the entrepreneurs.” (Sequoia)
“Venture Hacks.” (Guess who.)
A high concept pitch distills a startup’s vision into a single sentence.
What makes a good high concept pitch?
First, the pitch should be brief: one short sentence is perfect.
Second, people should already understand the building blocks of the pitch: buses, bombs, Jaws, space, the seven deadly sins, Flickr, Firefox, MMOGs, et cetera. The pitch combines the building blocks by using analogy, synthesis, juxtaposition, combination, whatever; e.g. “Jaws in space.”
Third, the pitch probably isn’t your company’s tagline. YouTube’s tagline is “Broadcast Yourself,” and their pitch is “Flickr for video”. If you’re lucky, you can find a pitch that’s also a tagline, e.g. Cisco’s “We network networks.” But don’t worry if your pitch isn’t a tagline.
What’s a high concept pitch good for?
First, the pitch is the perfect tool for fans who are spreading the word about your company. Investors use the pitch when they tell their partners about your startup. Customers use the pitch when they rave about your product. The press uses the pitch when they cover the company, e.g. see Mike Arrington’s article, Comparing The Flickrs of Video.
Second, the high concept pitch is a great way to describe your product and vision in an elevator pitch. We started this article with a quote from Marc Hedlund: “For investors, the product is nothing.” Bad elevator pitches go on and on about the product. Good ones boil it down to a high concept pitch. The rest of the elevator pitch should be devoted to your traction, social proof, team, and market.
What are your favorite high concept pitches? Add them to the comments.
Related: “High Concept” startups.