Focus on the Problem

I’ve written about this issue before, but it keeps coming up. Since we know that good communication is consistent and repetitive, it’s ok to keep teaching here.  Every week at Pitch Practice we listen to a dozen or so pitches from new entrepreneurs about new ideas. We start with a simple method of developing your 30-second pitch, which goes something like this:

        • Your name
        • Your company name (if you have one yet)
        • What’s the problem you are solving
        • What’s your solution
        • Who is your customer (customers pay you money)
        • What do you need (aka the ask)?

Now, this is an arbitrary method. There’s no science behind it, other than it works as a basic structure for learning how to pitch your idea, your company, your product, or even you if you’re seeking employment or contract work. You don’t have to work in the above order, and sometimes it’s actually more effective to say your name last so that piece will be more easily remembered.

In using this structure, two things invariably happen. First, people get the solution confused with the problem, and, second, people have difficulty figuring out how to state the problem briefly, personally, and in a manner that causes the audience to “get it” immediately.

The first issue is really one of semantics. I ask, “What’s the problem XYZ startup is solving?“, and someone always responds with a really good description of what XYZ startup does, but not what the problem is. The two are very different. See if you can describe the problem, rather than what the company does (or intends to do), because the best thing any new startup can do is solve a big problem.

My suggestion to anyone who stumbles here is this: focus on the problem.  Chris Turner of Ten Rocket, a frequent Pitch Practice attendee, nailed this early on with a real problem, especially in Atlanta. His pitch went something like this:

“Startups have great ideas, but those ideas rarely make it to the MVP.”

He’s adjusted it since last summer, when he started Ten Rocket, mainly because his MVP building startup has had so much success, but the core remains the same. He focused on the problem, and in doing so left the solution in the eyes and ears of the audience. Anyone and everyone in the Atlanta tech startup community knows and can usually relate to the problem of having a great idea but not being a software developer and not being able to find an available software developer to be a co-founder. It’s a huge problem!

Chris and Justin have conceived and are executing on one solution to the problem.

What do you think?