Four Questions Every Start-up Ought To Answer


As I go around and visit companies, I usually ask them four questions:

  1. What's your product?
  2. Who's your customer?
  3. Why do they buy your product?
  4. What's your competitive advantage?

You'd be surprised (maybe you wouldn't) to find that there are companies who can't answer these questions. They might think they're answering them, but usually they're waving their hands a lot while their talking. I want to know the answers to these questions before I ever hear word one about the technology. Sometimes people think the first question is answered by talking about their technology--its not.

Questions 3 and 4 may seem similar, but their not. Question 3 could alternately read: "what problem are you solving for your customer?" and question 4 could alternately read: "why can't any other bozo with a wheelbarrow full of money do the same thing?" Contrary to popular belief, access to capital is not a competitive advantage.

I'm also usually pretty blunt about asking about gross revenues, burn rate, and their funding situation, but only after a substantive talk on the first four. I'm having a lot of fun. I need to find a way to get paid for it. :-)