High concept pitches are great for getting your foot in the door (“It’s Friendster… for dogs!”).

But once you’re in the building, pitch a bigger vision. I’ve been talking to a lot of startups that apply to AngelList and most of them don’t have a vision that would separate investors from their money. Here are some great visions:

Facebook isn’t a social network. Facebook “gives people the power to share, making the world more open and connected.”

Plancast isn’t a place to share plans. It’s a “platform for all intent data.”

Sequoia isn’t a VC firm. They’re “the investor and business partner in companies that make up over 10% of NASDAQ’s value.”

Twitter isn’t [insert whatever Twitter is here]. They’re “the best way to share and discover what is happening right now.”

Google isn’t a search engine. They “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Vision principles

Vision isn’t a replacement for traction and milestones. But a compelling vision helps differentiate you from the competition (i.e. every other startup pitching that investor). And vision is especially helpful for a startup like DailyBooth where the value proposition isn’t immediately clear (It’s not an online photo booth. It’s your life in pictures.)

Don’t make your vision too abstract. Be concrete like Plancast and Sequoia. Facebook and Twitter can get away with abstraction because everybody already knows what they do.

Vision is aspirational. Google couldn’t claim to organize the world’s information when they wrote their first line of code. But they could aspire to it.

Make sure your vision is crisp, short, and articulate. No ums, ahs, justs, you-knows, or likes. This is hard for everyone, but there’s a solution: talk slower. You say um when your brain needs time to think. So give your brain time to think by slowing down and replacing the ums with silence.

Don’t belabor the vision. Keep it brief — extremely brief. Consider mentioning it once at the beginning of the pitch and once again at the end.

Vision is free. Unlike your product, team, and traction, you can literally make it up.

Topics Pitching

9 comments · Show

  • Ryan Meinzer

    How about “PlaySay makes cross-cultural communication fast and easy, one word at a time.”

    Feedback, please. Nivi, Naval, anyone?

  • Thomas Korte

    @ryan — I started to answer you directly, but ended up writing about visions in general. I hope this is useful:

    (Cross-post from VentureHacks Talk)

    When I am investing in early stage companies, the vision of the founders is very important. It tells me (the investor) what they really want to do, rather than evaluating them based on the product they built, their experience or prior success. (Of course all that is really important too.)

    I ask myself: “What do these guys want to do in the long run — not a year or two, 15 years ?” “What excites them; Which really big problem do they want to solve?”

    In the early days at Google we joked about not having a plan, we would say that “we have a 6 month roadmap and a 15 year vision — everything in between is somewhat blurry.” That is what I want founders to think about. I always get great answers for the 6-month roadmap. It’s easy. But what is the VISION for 15 years out?

    A great vision is easy to understand, very broad, very ambitious, and very difficult to achieve. You don’t want to loose your purpose once out have achieved your vision. NASA struggled for decades after they succeeded to [put a man on the moon].

    So, when brainstorming about the vision, think much broader than your current product and features, your current customers and market. Think outside of what is possible today, ignore common assumptions, and free your inner-fear of tackling a really big problem. If you can do that, you might be another Larry or Sergey, another Bill Hewlett or Sam Walton. Think 15, or even better, 50 years out.

    • Scott Lewis

      Sometimes I feel like all I have is vision and the problem I want to solve is war. I’m willing to dedicate the rest of my life to encouraging peace. War, misunderstanding, and division being the “big” problems. Anyways, I’ve got all this vision of how to do it and I’m finally figuring out how to translate it into a product, but selling people on the connection between a social game and its ability to create more peace is hard.

      Anyways, I like this post and your reply. Just wanted to share how a clear vision can be hard to translate into visible understanding amongst stakeholders.

      I’ve seen other posts about exit strategies that might preclude some people from thinking 15 – 50 years out. Personally my exit strategy is death, though I do try to imagine what my game will be doing for people in the 2100′s. I wonder who’ll be running the show after I’m gone.

  • peace

    I totally agree that long-term vision is important. But as an investor, I’m highly skeptical of BIG vision coming from empty suits. As you said, vision is free…you get what you pay for. Execution is everything.

  • Ryan Meinzer

    @andrew Thanks, I looked at your blog – I agree that instapaper is pretty handy!

    @thomas Thanks for the thorough feedback and advice, this is extremely helpful. Would you say my aforementioned vision statement adheres to your advice?

    “PlaySay makes cross-cultural communication fast and easy for everyone, one word at a time.”

    Even better?

  • John

    Ryan — Why not focus on how you change the learning experience instead of trying to solve the “cross cultural communication” issue, which any language learning method tries to solve by definition? I also don’t see the value added of the “one word at a time.” I believe that Thomas was asking for a broader vision. My take on it:

    “Playsay will leverage mobility to change the way people learn everything”

    I’m not an investor — just a student — so please adjust the level of credibility you shall credit my answer with.

  • Jonas

    How the hell did DirtyPhoneBook or Unvarnished get any type of funding with their pitch?

    “Ummmm, excuse me, we’d just like to destroy everybody’s lives.”

  • Ryan Meinzer

    John, thanks so much for your helpful feedback, I couldn’t agree with you more!

    PlaySay advances cultural awareness and international fellowship through language.”

    I would appreciate anyone’s thoughts. VentureHacks rocks!

  • Nazir

    Can anyone tell me please what is the difference between purpose and vision?