If You Can’t Explain What You Do in a Paragraph, You’ve Got a Problem

I so loved the title of Brad Feld’s post, that I just had to copy the title.

This is an important one.  We live in a world of personal branding, quick online reputation checks and a lot of noise.  Authors, Entrepreneurs and job seekers get less and less time to explain themselves.

This morning I was listening to Guy Kawasaki pitch his new book “APE” in a webinar on publishing.  He talked about the challenge of an author.  “Nobody walks into the bookstore thinking I am here to make Guy Kawasaki a little bit richer.  He walks in with a problem that he wants to solve.  His problem.”

The mentality of someone walking into a bookstore and browsing, and the mentality of an investor share a lot of similarities.  They have their own agenda.  Either you show you can help that agenda very quickly, or there are 20,000 other books in the bookshop that will get their attention.

If You Can’t Explain what You do in a Paragraph, You’ve Got a Problem

Gimme some Attention!!

I love the energy of entrepreneurs.  I spend a lot of time involved in activities in Barcelona.  I love the entrepreneurial energy. It is great to see people and institutions coming together to build the supporting community.  We need to get better at connecting 1) the people with the resources with 2) the people with the ideas with 3) the people who can execute these ideas.

If you approach me at a networking event and say “I’d like to talk to you about my business.”  I’ll say “Great.”  Then I will ask “What problem do you solve?”

This is the point at which 85% lose my attention.  They try to steer the conversation to describing the technology, or give a generic statement that uses either the word “platform” or “solution”.

I don’t want to hear about what language you are coding in.  I don’t really care about which font you have chosen for your book.  I don’t care when you started.

The 3 Ingredients of What We Do

Brad Feld says the “What We Do” Paragraph should be three sentences: (1) what we do, (2) who we do it to, and (3) why you should care. Sometimes this can be two sentences; sometimes four, but never more than a paragraph.

I believe the major risk of early stage startups is getting customers to buy, and showing that you can sell.  The words “platform” or “solution” are indicative of an entrepreneur who has not spent much time with real or potential customers.

What’s your paragraph?

Photo Credit: saikiishiki via Compfight cc

11 comments

  1. […] “I believe the major risk of early stage startups is getting customers to buy, and showing that you can sell.” Conor Neill in “If You Can’t Explain what You do in a Paragraph, You’ve Got a Problem“ […]

  2. […] Neil has a great quote in “If You Can’t Explain what You do in a Paragraph, You’ve Got a Problem” (great title but he admits he cribbed it from Brad […]

  3. […] y gran plataforma para los ponentes. Aunque, en cualquier caso, y como aviso a navegantes, si no eres capaz de decir lo que haces en un párrafo es que no lo tienes demasiado claro. Pero si no puedes decirlo en 6:40, mejor apaga y […]

  4. […] y gran plataforma para los ponentes. Aunque, en cualquier caso, y como aviso a navegantes, si no eres capaz de decir lo que haces en un párrafo es que no lo tienes demasiado claro. Pero si no puedes decirlo en 6:40, mejor apaga y […]

  5. […] y gran plataforma para los ponentes. Aunque, en cualquier caso, y como aviso a navegantes, si no eres capaz de decir lo que haces en un párrafo es que no lo tienes demasiado claro. Pero si no puedes decirlo en 6:40, mejor apaga y […]

  6. [...] público y gran plataforma para los ponentes. Aunque, en cualquier caso, y como aviso a navegantes, si no eres capaz de decir lo que haces en un párrafo es que no lo tienes demasiado claro. Pero si no puedes decirlo en 6:40, mejor apaga y [...]

  7. [...] público y gran plataforma para los ponentes. Aunque, en cualquier caso, y como aviso a navegantes, si no eres capaz de decir lo que haces en un párrafo es que no lo tienes demasiado claro. Pero si no puedes decirlo en 6:40, mejor apaga y [...]

  8. fionamcanena · · Reply

    That’s at the heart of a good proposition – another way is to ask, “What job do you do that your customers want done?”. Entrepreneurs are usually, understandably, keen to say how they’re different, but that comes second – how you do it better is only relevant once someone knows what you could do for them. Mine is, I help businesses to develop, define and articulate their propositions. In other words, I help them do this!

    1. Thanks Fiona. It is quite simple, but so easy to lose track of when we get tripped up in all the details of trying to be someone “important” ;-)

  9. Ecatherine · · Reply

    My paragraph is: “I transform lives” ;-)

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