By: Hillel Fuld (@Hilzfuld)
It has been a decade now since I started meeting local startups on a daily basis. We usually meet for lunch and talk about topics ranging from their pitch, competitors, go-to-market strategy, or many other questions pertaining to marketing and growth.
So many of these meetings go the same way.
Me: “Pitch me. What is your product?”
The entrepreneur: “We developed an algorithm…”
Then the inevitable question:
Me: “Who are your competitors?
Entrepreneur: “We have none!”
And on and on. One day I will write a book about some of insane conversations I have had with startups over the years. In this post, however, I want to focus on one thing that happens over and over.
That Awkward Moment
The meeting hasn’t even started (i.e the steak isn’t even on the table yet…) and the dude is taking out his laptop to demo me his product. “I think I will let the product do the talking…” Or “Why explain it if I can show it?”
My response is always the same “You see where you took that laptop from just now? Yea, see if it fits back in there…”
I don’t believe any meeting, at least any first meeting should involve a laptop anymore than a first date should. No, I did not just compare myself to your date. Well, ok, I kinda did. Hear me out.
Let’s Get to Know Each Other
Whether you are meeting an investor, a journalist, an influencer, or just someone from whom you are seeking advice, use your words. Explain why you built what you built, what the need is, what the market is, how you intend on penetrating that market, what your goals are, who your competitors are, how you plan on monetizing down the road, and many more questions you think an investor/journalist would ask you.
I get it. Your product is your baby, and you like showing off your baby. Who doesn’t? But first of all, for your own sake, try to use words, you won’t always have your computer with you and chances are, you need the practice. If you cannot explain it in words and you need to show it to someone for them to understand, which is something I have heard many times, then you have a problem you need to work on.
Don’t Blind Me with your Beauty or…
From my point of view, I want to hear about the product, and I do not want to see it, not yet anyway. Why? If the product is the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on, that would immediately cloud my judgement regarding your chances of success. The product can be beautiful but no one will know that until they try it. And if the product is super raw and not designed well at all, same story. That would make me subjective as to my thoughts on your chances of success.
Furthermore, think about your typical demo. What happens as soon as you fire up that laptop and start demoing? You start focusing on design, on features, on buttons, on colors, on flows. You know what you don’t focus on? Strategy. Product market fit. Differentiation.
Now don’t get me wrong. There is a time and a place for a product demo. At the end of the day, no Investor is writing a check without seeing the product. That’s what the second date is for, if there is one.
The first date is for getting to know each other. The second date is when we get a little closer and you can show me your product. That right there is officially the creepiest sentence to ever make its way into a blog post.
Anyway, you get what I mean. The first meeting between an entrepreneur and anyone who is trying to learn about the product has no place for a laptop. Of course, that does not include answering all the questions I mentioned above with a presentation or a pitch deck. That is fine if that’s the way the Investor rolls. But please, don’t start the meeting before telling me what I’m looking at by showing me the product itself.
We are not ready for that. We are not that close yet.
Also? A laptop on the restaurant table means less room for my steak. I’ve been known to eat large steaks. You don’t leave room on the table for my steak and you can be sure there won’t be a second date.