The hardest parts of being a first-time founder have all involved explaining what I’m doing. Even harder has been explaining why I’m doing it, and what I’m going to do next.
So much of entrepreneurship depends on being able to take ideas and turn them into words that others can understand. If you’re really good, you can turn the idea into something others can get excited about.
Whether talking to customers, marketing your product or raising funding, being able to communicate what you’re doing as an entrepreneur concisely and accurately is fundamental to success.
A vision is a concise, articulate explanation of the ideas at the core of your company.
You must be able to explain your company in at most, two sentences. You must be able to do this without a product demo. You should be able to make yourself clear to a five year old and to your grandma.
There are several approaches creating a vision, but they are best all treated as starting points, rather than an end of itself.
There’s the often used X for Y model, as in “AirBnB for Tutoring”, which is great if you are taking a proven idea to a new market.
There’s the madlib style “We are building <thing> for <people> to help them with <problem> by <doing something>”. This is a good starting point for many companies because it clarifies what the product is, who it’s for, why they care and how it’s going to meet their needs.
There’s the framework that identifies trends, and places your company relative to them, for example “People are turning away from Facebook because they feel the need to self-censor. What people want now is an easy, private way to communicate with friends.” like Snapchat.
The first, cheapest test.
Creating a vision for your company also forces you to frame your idea in concrete terms. It’s a way to turn an idea into assumptions that can be evaluated and iterated upon, and provides you with something you can test quickly with a large audience.
Forcing yourself to distill your idea down to its core forces you to be honest about your chances, and forces you to focus. When you tell potential customers or co-founders your vision, are they interested? Do they want to know more? If not, why? If so, what are they most interested in?
A vision is your first tool as a founder for testing the hypotheses that characterize your business. For an early stage founder, it’s the first thing you can build, measure, learn from and improve. It’s the first thing you can try to sell. It’s the seed of your company.
A vision is the idea you build your company around. Be clear.