My Golden Rule for Pitching Your Startup or Product

Thursday Nov 21, 2013 by David Cancel - Chief Product Officer, HubSpot

There’s a simple rule I use when pitching a product or even a company to someone. I call it “No Ands.”

The “No Ands” rule is simple: You have to be able to describe your idea in a single sentence without using the word “and.”

I believe “ands” are crutches — they add confusion and show you don’t really understand your value proposition.

The reason I’ve used this crutch in the past is probably the same reason that you’ve used it: I’m so excited about how big an idea can be that I want to share my excitement with everyone I talk to. I never want someone to walk away from a pitch unimpressed. I want them to see the same big idea that I see. So I try to convince them with lots of “ands.”

But the problem with using “ands” is that they often confuse ideas instead of clarifying them. What’s a better way to describe Amazon.com?

a. The largest online store on the planet for almost any product you’d want to buy.
b. An ecommerce store and a maker of hardware devices (Kindle, etc) and also a cloud computing provider and a marketplace where you can sell goods (digital and physical) and …

As ridiculous as that example may seem, it’s not far off from the pitches I’ve heard from entrepreneurs describing their company or someone describing the product they are building.

The “No Ands” rule is a simple constraint that you can use to focus your pitch. Constraints in my opinion are a critical ingredient for innovation and creativity. Try introducing this constraint the next time you pitch an idea to someone. I think it will teach you to clarify your positioning and, hopefully, result in fewer glazed-over eyes and confused recipients.

David Cancel is the Chief Product Officer at HubSpot in Cambridge, MA.  You can find this blog post, as well as additional content on his blog located here.  You can also follow David on Twitter (@dcancel) by clicking here.

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