“I want you to imagine if you were the fire chief in charge. You’re outside of an active fire emergency. Peoples’ lives are on the line. Now I want you to imagine looking at a white board. This is the tool you use to track and manage your team’s movement.”
“We’re replacing the pen and paper tools with a digital platform that connects sensors to precise location technology in order to create the ultimate command center for firefighters.”
When Paul and Alex finished their demo of Ascent Integrated Tech, we were ready to make an investment. This is super rare – most demos drive us away from making an investment! (We didn’t immediately tell them yes, it took lots of diligence to confirm what we already believed.)
Paul and Alex brought us into the lives of fire chiefs and had us at the edge of our seats. They made us understand their real challenges and how they rely on Ascent to solve them. They showed us their understanding of how incident commanders and line firefighters use their solution, as well as how fire departments purchase technology. You could tell how much they cared about their customers. The whole demo took less than 3 minutes. Our eyes were lighting up. They made us experience the Aha moment!
The Ascent team truly understood something fundamental: A great product demo is ultimately a great story. It’s the hero’s journey of your customer – it’s not about you or your product! There is a challenge to overcome and a clear outcome on how your customer’s lives are so much better with your startup. This story didn’t come together overnight. The Ascent team talked to over 1,000 customers across the country before diving deep to build the tech.
We immediately lose interest when a founder focuses on their features instead of the customer benefits. Don’t take too long to describe a customer benefit or show us how to log in. We really don’t care why you decided to use a light blue background over a lime green one. The point is it doesn’t matter. Our thesis at MATH is companies with an unfair advantage in customer acquisition will win in the long term. When you are demoing your startup to us, all we care about are the customer benefits from the customer’s perspective.
A product demo to a venture fund is a demonstration of how you are communicating value to your future customers. We are paying attention and the last thing we want to hear is a list of features. Your goal is to impress us with the outcomes that your customers are achieving, not your taste in user interfaces.
Don’t waste any time in explaining your design choices – who cares about our opinion as long as your users are loving your solution! When we want to see a product demonstration during a fundraising decision, we really want to understand your users and why they do what they do. Simply put, your customer should be the center of the demo.
This isn’t to say design doesn’t matter. We LOVE teams who care about the look and feel of their product and brand just as much as engineering. This is super important for direct to consumer startups or companies that rely on product-led growth. That being said, imagine if your users are happily using the clunky version of your product. That’s the best signal that you can have that you will have even more customers at a higher price point down the road.
Start with a user journey. Tell a story on what outcomes the user experiences when using your solution. How is their life different before using your solution and after using your solution? What benefits are they seeing because you are now part of their life?
Show us a step by step journey of what gets them to try out your service, what gets them to commit, and why they stick around long-term. How much time do they spend on your product? What is the alternative to your solution if they had no budget to pay for it? When they do leave, what makes them leave? When they get to refer your solution to others, why do they do it?
Fundamentally, don’t just tell us why you care, show us why your customers care. Tell us why you can double your pricing tomorrow and whether the majority of your customers would stick around. Why? Why not?
Finally, use the current product as a scaffolding for where your future benefits will come from. Try to explain why your roadmap is the way it is based on what the product does today. What are ways in which your users are behaving that can make your product even more valuable tomorrow?
Hope this framing helps in your future fundraising conversations. What does a successful demo look like for you?
Please let us know on Twitter and remember to like and share this post if you want to see more founder tips from MATH VP.