When you hear a new startup pitch for the first time, it’s often hard to wrap your head around how the startup works. As you’re trying to do so, in a good willed attempt to help you understand, many founders begin to talk about different parts of what the startup does, with no unifying thread of how these parts relate to one another. This makes matters worse.
A much better approach to understanding what the startup does is to ask the founder what the step by step user or customer journey of someone using the startup looks like.
For example, in the case of an e-commerce startup selling physical goods, what sequence of events takes place after a customer places an order? How and at what time is the payment taken? Is the order routed to a specific supplier, or to the company’s warehouse, or does it depend on the specific product that is ordered? How and in how much time is the order prepared? How and in how much time is the order delivered to the customer? How does the customer track and ask questions about their order during this process? After receiving the order, can the customer choose whether to return the order or not? If so, how does the return take place? If not, how does the company measure the customer’s satisfaction? When and how does the company pay the supplier?
Similarly to the post-order customer journey outlined above, it’s possible to outline other user or customer journeys. Once again, in the context of an e-commerce startup selling physical goods, this would include a user’s pre-order website navigation journey and the separate pre and post-order customer service journeys.
The benefit of this approach is two-fold.
First, it helps the investor better understand what the startup does.
Second, the founder’s ability to clearly communicate the step by step user or customer journey reflects the extent to which they have thought about and understand what their startup does. This is an indicator of the startup’s eventual probability of success.