…And an entrepreneur’s ability to connect.
Quick, what do you do? For whom? How are you good? You have about three seconds before you’ve lost your reader.
This article by venture capitalist Brad Feld tells of a brief exchange with an entrepreneur who contacted him. At Mr. Feld’s request for a brief descriptive paragraph about the company, the entrepreneur politely declined.
“Too complex,” he argued and as Feld tells it, “…missed his chance to engage me more deeply since he couldn’t articulate what he was doing.”
Why would someone who needs interest and money focused on his business neglect that promotional step? In order to move forward, even small bootstrapping businesses need to fall out of love with every bit of minutiae that fueled their original plan. Outsiders and customers just don’t care to hear it.
Furthermore, an entrepreneur with vision would view the request for brevity and clarity in their copy as a challenge. At the very least, a sign that he has more work to do before asking for money.
Does a job applicant tell an employer that his qualifications are too involved to fit on a one or two page resume? Absurd.
Here’s why I think the entrepereneur couldn’t grit his teeth and wield the scalpel: Self-importance.
His emotional investment in all parts of his invention/business up until that point made him unable to paint a concise and moving picture for someone else. And, if the truth is known, because he’s not ready kiss those details goodbye, he’s probably not ready to open up the Pandora’s Box that is venture capitalism. Some entrepreneurs never do leave their honeymoon with their own idea. Not being able to share the “gist” of a thing translates into “not ready for prime time” with investors/customers/the public.
I understand the pain of cutting out parts, by the way. The process of editing copy is often so painful that I delete redundant but dazzing (self-dazziling, I should say) sentences and save them in files called “unused, but good,” never to be seen again.
To put it in a non-business way, fashionable women know the indelible rule made famous by Coco Chanel: “Get dressed. Then take one thing off.”
The elevator speech — that prepared, 60-second description advised for entreprenuers and job seekers, means something’s going to get left out — even something precious and dear — but that’s exactly why it’s so important that YOU whittle those parts out. You may love them, but details are not the most exciting thing to the listener. They want to see the picture of your vision in action — in the end user’s hands, not yours. They want the trailer, not the whole movie.
The irony is that YOU are the most qualified person to slice and dice, so you must be brave. Kind of like holding your kid’s hand or while the doctor stitches his head. No one else will do.
The good news about removing complexity in your copy is that you don’t have to do it alone. Some copywriters are skilled at distilling a big unwieldy idea into a tidy nutshell…Perfect for approaching VCs, customers and the press.
If “all you need is love” for your idea, then you better not reach out until you’ve cooled off and cut the complexity from your pitch. Level enthusiasm mixed a few strategic points will win the hearts and minds of people you want on your team.