I attended TechCrunch Disrupt 2016 held in San Francisco and focused my time meeting startups that had a display on the floor. After, I would take a picture of them, include their company name or Twitter account, and described what they did. Interestingly enough, most startups had a difficult time describing what they did.
In some cases, it was a no brainer. A startup would have a short tag line that was descriptive and easy to comprehend, but most failed.
A great example is Infani Inc, Smart Baby Monitor Solution. Being a parent, I instantly got it. I was able to understand what the company did in few words and it got my attention. However, many companies struggled to pitch, which made me question whether they know their business well.
A good example is Troop. Their tagline was “organize your business with cards.” When I read their tagline, I assumed it was some sort of system that organized business cards. It turns out that it was similar to Basecamp, a project management software. I gave them my feedback so we immediately started brainstorming. We described it as “the JIRA for everything" at first.
Being a developer myself, I knew what JIRA was, but I don't think many people did. We finally settled on "card base collaboration system." It still sounds confusing, but I recently went back to their website and not surprisingly, they changed their tag line to "the best way to manage your project, your team, your life."
To their credit, they must have applied the feedback from TechCrunch attendees and re-worked their tag line.
It wasn’t only startups that had a challenge describing what they did in a tweet. The IBM Watson team had a hard time describing Watson as well. We discussed it and they finally settled on “Artificial Intelligence Platform."
Cisco also had a hard time describing their product Cisco Spark. Their initial description was “It’s like Slack” but quickly dismissed it. Their marketing employee revamped the tag line and came up with “Business Collaboration Made Simple.” I was still confused but they went with it.
If startups and companies don't know how to describe their own business, how can you convince anyone to use your product or give you money? Practice your 30 second elevator pitch for your chance to encounter with Marc Andreessen.
Ask yourself right now - can you describe what your startup does in 140 characters or less? Try it. I think it's a great exercise that will force you to be succinct in describing your company.