Five Years Too Late

October 3, 2008

Please Hold the Google Comparisons

Filed under: Pitching, Startups, venture capital — Tags: , , , , , — fiveyearstoolate @ 8:56 am

We get pitched on a lot of products that are designed to be hugely profitable primarily at very large scale, or which are platforms for the underlying monetization of otherwise less valuable digital assets. And with the aim of highlighting the scope of the opportunities presented by the business being pitched, many stray into comparisons to a certain successful company that is very profitable at great scale, and that succeeded in monetizing a big piece of the web. Whether your business is directly analogous (as a few are) or not particularly so (as most are), I’m asking you to please be very judicious with the Google comparisons.

Every investor you pitch knows that Google was the most successful venture-backed company of the past 10 years. And it goes without saying that every one of them would like to back “the next Google”. But please also note that every startup that wasn’t Google didn’t turn out to be Google. It’s ok to analogize your service to either consumer or advertiser modalities that have been proven out by Google. Generally speaking, we at RRE don’t like to see business models that require major shifts in user or customer behavior underlying the success thesis, so if you think either your users or your customers (to the extent that they are different) have been “trained” by Google (or some other highly successful company) to act in certain ways that enable your business, by all means demonstrate that you understand your users well enough to make the point, and that you have seen major proof in the real world that users will act the way you project.

Ultimately, though, please be mindful that making repeated references to Google is not going to cause investors’ eyes to turn into dollar signs as they envision a 1000x return on your company. The more frequently you repeat it, the less effective it becomes. If what you’re doing is deeply vertical, don’t say “we can be the Google of fishing” because the whole point of Google is its staggering horizontal reach. A corollary of this is only say that you are the “Adwords of ___________” or the “Adsense of __________” if you have a really good story to tell. Adwords monetized search and adsense monetized the long tail of content. Those are big stories. If what you have an interesting self-service model, try to figure out a way to tell the story without claiming to be Adwords. If you have a cool distributed content story, tell it in a way that doesn’t just try to associate with Adsense.

In the end, the investors you want involved with your company won’t be fooled by Google analogies, and the companies good investors want won’t try to do it.

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3 Comments »

  1. Well said. Although I will say that I think Youtube turned out to be the Google of Video, right? Even if their revenue model sort of relies on google, and the only viable exit for them was getting bought by google. Sorry, wait, how does youtube make money? Bit of a tangent, I know.

    Comment by Tim — October 3, 2008 @ 2:16 pm

  2. YouTube is similar to Google only in that it has great horizontal reach, but the business model and fundamental relationship with data is distinctly different. Google is essentially search and monetization of metadata (data about websites) whereas YouTube’s relationship with content is far more direct, in that they host video. I doubt YouTube pitched themselves as the Google of Video back in the day (although you never know…)

    Comment by fiveyearstoolate — October 4, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

  3. I wanted to answer my own question from last week: http://venturebeat.com/2008/10/07/youtube-still-looking-for-dollars-adds-ecommerce-button-to-videos/

    Comment by Tim — October 8, 2008 @ 2:26 pm


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