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3-2-1 Traction — the most compelling ideas to invest in
What to look for in a first round startup pitch; cringey team slides; product-market fit simplified; cofounder therapy; the bunk of the mindset revolution; and creating long-term value.
Hey friend 👋
Welcome to Global Entrepreneurship Week! This is the one week a year everyone else loves entrepreneurship as much as I do.
Let’s hang. I’ll be participating in two main events (and a lot of smaller ones):
🔥 Thursday @ 11am — Traction AMA. My friend Cameron Law and I will take the stage to answer your questions about all things startup traction. Come shred the shredder!
🎤 Thursday @ 5pm — Spotlight Pitch Event. I’ll be on a judging panel for CleanStart’s 4th annual investor pitch event, spotlighting clean tech startups.
3 ideas from me
The most compelling ideas to invest in?
Ideas addressing a severe and urgent problem in a really big and growing market, which is being tackled by a founder absolutely obsessed with solving it.
That’s it. The rest is figure-out-able.
Most team slides in first-round pitch decks royally suck.
It’s cliche to say that team matters in startups, but for a good reason:
❌ A ideas with B teams
✅ A teams with B ideas
Unfortunately, many team slides signal your lack of seriousness. 😳
The two most common?
You have too many founders. The signal: you let everyone in for equity, regardless of their value. Don’t have a founding team bigger than you need, and don’t distribute equity evenly.
Everyone has a CXO title. The signal: vanity is more important than capability. If you’re not qualified to be a CTO of a scalable company, be the technical co-founder.
Don’t be that guy.
Product-market fit isn’t a very useful concept, because it’s not actionable.
It’s a hand-wavy art. It’s know-it-when-you-see-it. Ephemeral. Boo!
More helpful? The “spectrum of fit”:
Founder / market fit — when you (the founding team) have a singular passion for the people and problems within a particular space. You’re the right team to do this work.
Problem / customer fit — when you have robust evidence of an unmet, severe, and urgent need by a growing group of people in that market, whom you can clearly identify and efficiently get in front of.
Problem / solution fit — when your value proposition resonates reliably strongly with that group of customers, because they can’t live without your particular solution any longer.
Model / market fit — when who you charge, how you charge, what you charge, and why that works becomes so predictable that it becomes repeatable, and therefore scalable.
Product-market fit isn’t a destination. It’s a process.
2 ideas from others
Our overt arguments don’t matter as much as the broader themes that are underneath those plotlines. Tune out the noise of what you’re bickering over and dig deeper to find out what’s going on underneath the surface.
When people say you should bring your whole self to work, my response is always this: You already do. But it’s in unconscious ways that you're not even aware of.
The tactic of subtraction goes against the grain of the so-called mind-set revolution, in which it seems everyone is adding this or that quality to their mental approach. The growth mind-set. The abundance mind-set. The gratitude mind-set. But in this genre of self-optimization, if it can be called that, we are adding more and more duct tape to something that isn’t broken — our mind — until it is so covered we lose sight of the beautifully designed machine underneath it all and it thus becomes, in fact, broken.
1 question for you
Is the top item on your to do list today connected to the value you’ll be creating in the long term?
See you at GEW!
PS… If you’re enjoying 3-2-1 Traction, will you take 6 seconds and forward this issue to a friend? It goes a long way in helping me grow the newsletter (and helping more founders find traction).