I would consider myself a pretty well practiced person in the world of pitches, at least in terms of having viewed them. I’ve stayed up late watching Demo Days & pitch battles livestreamed from the Silicon Valley. I’ve seen startups pitch across Europe. Most recently, I’ve begun watching the Bloomberg TV reality series TechStars, which follows the first round of companies from the Techstars New York incubator.
I’ve seen European clones, Freemium business models from hell, and I’ve seen platform dependency like nobody’s business. You know what I’m really tired of? “we’re adding a gamification layer to our geolocalized social app”
…Shut the hell up! You’re a service for calling taxis!…
Some of the best criticism I’ve heard from a VC, which I have been quoting whenever relevant, came from a VC on the panel judging the startup pitches at the Pirate Summit. After one startup described their service, and all the social plugins and capabilities, he said “I like your product, but forget all this social bullshit. Your service ISNT social.”
Too many startups think that taking a problem and turning it Social, Local, and Mobile will solve it. Well guess what? It doesn’t. Just like a bad business model, the wrong plug-ins, the wrong direction of your product will lead to failure. SoLoMo Attributes need to seen, not as add-ons, but as commitments to vision – when you make a decision to be social, you have to adapt your entire product and business model (which SHOULD NOT be entirely based on this feature) to that feature, which means that you inherently pull away from other features and business models that were previously available to you.
Building a startup is not like taking a set of Legos and building a machine, it’s more like taking a large cube of marble, and chipping away at it until you get what you want. Every time you chip away a piece, you get rid of possibilities for your final result – and if you want to go back and put that piece back in, you’re better off just starting from the block again.
So before you decide to launch your Geolocalized social mobile app for farmers (seriously… I’ve seen it pitched), make sure that it’s not coming at the expense of another more valuable, relevant feature.