Developing a “One Sentence”

Posted on February 21, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the first questions Kenny always asks a founder is “what are you? give it to me in one sentence.” Amazingly, that is a very difficult question for msot early stage founders to answer. I find that moment to moment that answer is living and evolving…and that it is rare (but extremely valuable” for someone to settle into a “one sentence” that is repeatable over and over again. Last night I went to a dinner hosted by one of our investors. It’s the second dinner of it’s kind that I’ve attended and they both followed the same format. There were about 10 attendees and the host asked each founder to introduce themselves and what his or her company did. Some people had very straightforward answers. One founder would say “we help small and medium size businesses advertise online…” another would say “we built a game called X” or “we help people find tickets for last minute events.” Perhaps my blessing and my curse at Wildcard is that we don’t fit so neatly into one simple line. I thought back to the first dinner about 5 months ago I think and I had to include an educational sentence or two on what a “card” was before being able to explain what Wildcard does. As I sat there last night, I had this nice feeling that the market and people at least in tech circles are up to speed on that. I was able to drop the educational context and arrive at a more concise introduction than previously possible. Last night I said “Hi my name is Jordan and our company is called Wildcard. We’re focussed on an emergent unit of interaction on mobile called “the card.” We see a future where cards replace webpages on mobile and we’re helping consumers and brands with an online presence to explore that future.” My introduction doesn’t get into the how…but I realized that none of the other simple intro’s explained the mechanics behind their value propositions either. It wasn’t “we help smbs market online but we are better because of x, and y and z, and these are the dashboards we give them and blah blah blah…” it was just “we help smb’s market online.” So I guess Wildcard “helps consumers and brands with an online presence explore card based mobile interaction as an alternative to webpages.” It’s still a work in progress…and of course I want to explain in that sentence our 3 products, how they fit together, the beauty of structuring data and delivering it to any channel capable of accepting it…the elegance of replacing webviews in native apps and large social channels and how that ties into replacing Safari in the consumer’s mind…but you don’t get to tell a 15 minute story when people are going around a dinner table…you get one concise shot for people to decide whether they care or not about what you do…and the language that evolves around your company, product, and mission is the difference between success and failure in that context.

So yea, I’m going to try to wear this “one sentence” for a bit and see how it feels: “Wildcard helps consumers and brands with an online presence explore card based mobile interaction as an alternative to mobile webpages.”

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8 Responses to “Developing a “One Sentence””

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I think you mean:

Wildcard, because the smartphone needs interactive smarter screens not dumbed down web pages.

Cool if I brainstorm with you?

“Wildcard helps brands and consumers interact with cards, an emerging medium that’s replacing the mobile web.”

thanks for the help

Great post. It is a hard balance telling people your one line with wanting to tell them the story and how you plan to get to that one line. I struggle with it as well.

Dave Tisch’s suggestion: “Wildcard is building the first truly mobile internet using Cards instead of webpages”

now I understand

Brainstorming different statements to see what sticks is not the best strategy here. You’ll keep going around in circles and never really articulate what the company is about and why people should care. I’ve seen this happen a lot with one sentences, key messages, taglines and even company names which only mask the magic behind a product.

A better approach is to systematically dissect the marketing components of your business – what it does, who it serves, the benefits it brings them and why it’s different – and then build your messaging from the ground up. I’ve deconstructed this process on my blog: http://www.cezary.co/startup-marketing. It may seem like a lot to digest and doing it is an investment in your business, but it will make it easier to sell, help you prioritize your go-to-market strategy and even give you clarity on your product roadmap.

Using this type of marketing thinking leads me to following observations and questions about Wildcard’s current one sentence:

– I would reconsider your statement about educating people about the card. Are you really sure that everyone gets it? Or are they just repeating what they heard on TechCrunch and don’t fully understand the concept? My feeling is the latter. Cards are very technical objects and utlimately they’re only an enabler to a better online experience. So you need to give them a stronger human element and illustrate them in a way that’s less confusing (everyone has their own connotation of the word “card”) and more relatable.
– What are the real benefits of a card? Speed? Simplicity? A beautiful was to consume information? You need to nail this point and articulate it better than anyone if you want people to be excited about the company, and the benefit should absolutely be present in the one sentence.
– I disagree with your point about “the how.” While you don’t need to tell people about the inner workings of Wildcard, it helps to explain the tech in a few words (eg “…by showcasing content in a beautiful way”)
– What does “unit of interaction” in the first statement mean? It feels extremely vague to me, even being in the startup world for several years now. I’d stay away from catch phrases and technical jargon altogether – they’re nothing more than a crutch.
– Your point about “the future” in your first statement is not compelling because you haven’t substantiated it. What’s so great about the future and why do people want to be there vs. the present? If you’re suggesting there’s a pain point, then you need to speak to it (examples like this help: https://twitter.com/jordancooper/status/436641414341222401/photo/1).
– Your point about “the alternative” is the second statement is similarly not compelling. Why do I need an alternative to mobile webpages? Can’t I just use an app (apps constitute 80%+ of time spent in mobile anyway)? And why are you assuming that I’ll looking for an alternative in the first place? I could very well be happy with the existing experience – unless I’m told otherwise.
– “Helping companies explore…” is not a benefit. Solving a problem is.
– Lastly, who’s the primary audience for this message? Consumers or brands? You either need to speak to one (while still building the bigger message of your company) or both (without watering down the proposition or alienating one party). This requires building a message architecture, which in turn requires a lot of finesse (http://www.cezary.co/post/35570729074/message-architecture).

No one should be surprised that creating “one sentences” is so difficult. You’re tryling to capture the essence of your entire company in just a few words. To do it properly, you’ll need to go through a proper marketing process and deconstruct the value proposition of your business, otherwise you’ll just continue grasping at straws.


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    About

    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I think there is one metric that can be used to measure the value of a human life and that’s impact. How did you change things? How many people did you touch? How different is the world because you lived in it and how positive was the change that you affected? (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it) You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com

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