What It Is vs. What It Does

We have been going through a pretty intense process over the last month putting together the series B pitch for Teqlo. It’s been challenging on a couple of fronts, but primarily because of self imposed complexity. In other words, given 10 seconds how do I articulate what the company does in a manner that people can attach themselves to. I should have reread any of the numerous posts I have written on keeping things simple :)

It was only recently that the moment of clarity was achieved, rather than simply describing what it is I have been consumed with describing how it works and why it matters and the result was just more confusion.

Teqlo is a web-based personal workspace for people who use the internet to get things done.

Yeah, it’s that simple. The fact that we enable breakthrough capabilities for user generated application compositing from third party services, can achieve a continuum of usability unparalleled, and are at the forefront of a new wave of business application software assembled and distributed by the very users who depend on it is all well and good but it’s how we do it as opposed to what we are.

This very much reminded me of recent advertising campaigns by Ebay and AOL that focus on personalization and ubiquity.

Ebay say “you can get IT on Ebay” without defining what IT is because ultimately IT is everything. Whatever IT is really is up to whoever is using Ebay to buy or sell the things they need or want. AOL’s latest campaign focuses on “building a better internet experience” and for the vast majority of the mass market this is probably spot on. Whatever services are available from AOL or it’s competitors is secondary to the experience they provide, which admittedly is a function of what they offer but absent of an intense level of personalization their users don’t necessarily benefit.

UPDATE: Please see my last comment in response to a couple of others for more context on this matter.

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15 thoughts on What It Is vs. What It Does

  1. Pingback socialwrite.com » Jeff Nolan on Teqlo
  2. (I assume this is moderated, in which case no need to publish. Just a message to you, really).

    I still can’t understand what value proposition you’re delivering from that statement.

    If I understand correct, Teqlo is a new technology which makes it very simple to create your own web-based software programs (so there’s a usable description right now). So what is the benefit of that?

    Btw the site has serious WTF nomenclature, like “…”Teqlets”, have a service wrapper around them that semantically normalizes web services by expressing inputs/outputs as microformats and then subjecting them to a routing algorithm that determines the proper sequencing of the services in order to create an application…” Remember that most VCs masquerade as actually knowing what they’re talking about but are generally clueless technology-wise.

    Just ask yourself what you do. The most obvious answer is what it’s all about. You’re not in marketing/branding mode, which is the next level up (like eBay and the AOL examples). For my company, I simply created the tagline “We keep the bad guys out”, as we’re a software security company. It certainly gets the message across 😉

  3. Thanks Alex. You are right about the website, it sucks. With 10 people, 9 of them engineers, it just wasn’t possible to get anything more meaningful up with the time we had. The good news is that we have an entirely new website under development that will be 1000% better and it goes online, most likely, in the first part of Feb.

  4. Jeff,

    It will be really interesting to watch you, as a former VC go through this process. With all due respect I have the feeling that now you fell in the trap all entrepreneurs do: knowing it all, living and breathing it all the time, being afraid of stating the obvious … or fall to the other extreme of not saying enough.
    Of course your statement about describes what Teqlo is … i.e the statement is true, it fits the business … but …. does it *describe* Teqlo specifically?
    How many other businesses can make the claim (if they are smart enough) that they are “for people who use the internet to get things done.”?

    Again, I feel funny saying this to a former VC, but if for a minute you can put yourself in the position you were in two years ago, do you think hearing this would be enough to get your juices flow? In other words: I certainly agree you should not get into the “how it does it” part, but don’t you think without the “what it does” the statement is too generic?

    (I’ve moderated a bunch of SVASE VC breakfasts, and perhaps the most dreaded question from the VC’s mouth after a 3-4 minute pitch: “So what is it you actually do?”)

    Happy New Year!

  5. Jeff,

    I just ran across this discussion here in your comments. As a former colleague and still a VC I have to agree with Zoli about not really getting it from your statement (“Teqlo is a web-based personal workspace for people who use the internet to get things done”). What do you mean with “personal workspace”? For what “people”? To get what “things” done? I looked at this from another perspective. I tend to understand what it is you are trying to do (we’ve had enough discussions about our views on things) but would I be able to sell it to my partners who would have to agree to support the investment? Probably not. Remember all the “fun” discussions of trying to convince someone who has no idea what you are talking about that they should support you on an investment? Think about this when preparing pitch materials! Just my thoughts! Best of luck with the fundraising.

    Happy New Year as well!

  6. I really hope nobody thinks I’m gonna walk into a pitch meeting, throw out one sentence and leave. Seriously.

    Zoli and Paul, what you want is the “how it works” part of the pitch and it’s there but at some point you have to abstract it to a higher level. Is Google an advertising network that deconstructs the individual ad unit to the point of intersection between a term that is searched for and an advertiser honing in on specific keywords, or is Google an internet search service. The answer is that it is both but sure as shit they didn’t walk into those early meetings talking about advertising networks.

    Far too many startups go into pitch meetings consumed with how their stuff works and why it’s different and they don’t answer the question that hangs in every one of these meetings – why should I care? The answer to that is not going to come from me giving you one sentence without context but it’s my hope that after hearing the pitch you will walk away with key messages, the first being what I provided in this post and the rest of it being what I didn’t disclose in this post.

  7. Zoli and Paul —

    I have been part of the process that Jeff is describing. Maybe we compacted the idea a bit too much. How about this rendition?

    “Teqlo is a service that lets people who use the Web to get their work done faster, easier, and simpler by allowing them to combine popular web services into personal productivity applications.”

    Longer for sure… any clearer??

  8. Peter,

    I buy this version (not that it matters, its not my wallet you’re after … ). Seriously though, I think it’s concise and defines *what* Teqlo does without getting into the *how*.


  9. Same to you Zoli, I’m really pleased that we were able to team up with the Irregulars this last year.


  10. “Teqlo is a web-based personal workspace for people who use the internet to get things done.”

    As I try to parse this and figure-out if I’m willing to fund this or even use it, I think it needs some more work:

    = “personal workspace” means nothing to me ’cause it could imply a desktop, a environment for development, or a slew of other nebulous ideas
    = “internet” is there a difference between wired and wireless
    = “get things done” is to me the weakest part — even when I’m wasting time I doing something so what kinds of things is Teqlo supposed to help me do, productive, collaborative, educational or any

    If your scope is this broad at the start it will be hard(er) to attract the initial users who need to be able to self-select and your one sentence does not speak to any particular audience.

    Happy holidays Jeff and the rest of the Teqlo team,

  11. Last night, we went over to a friend’s house to celebrate a quite New Year’s. I sat down with a bunch of people, opened my laptop with its fancy new Teqlo sticker and started to show the group how easy it was to build an application using Teqlo. We built a mash-up of Ebay + Google maps. People got it right away.

    One of them was really interested in rough blue semi precious gem stones. She wants to make a necklace.

    “Can I add another one of those techie widget things to check this search for me all the time and tell me when a good deal comes up?”

    That was her first question!…. in other words, right away this highly non-technical user wanted to use Teqlo to start assembling a small customized application to help her do something on the web.

    It’s not a one sentence description, but it the 2 minute demo sure made me feel happy to be working for the company.

  12. It’s the demo which is going to hook em once you get in the door as Rod wrote. Still, unless you’re going to a pitch on the back of connections opening doors, you might want to look again at what Jack wrote. You wrote about having one concise statement to describe what you do. Had Google just told me they were a search engine, I would have said who the hell cares….get in line with the 100 other players (obviously, Google is a poor example since everyone is pissed they passed on it if they did).

    Here’s my stab at Peter’s version:

    “Teqlo is an online service that lets non-technical people who use the Web get internet related tasks done faster, easier, and simpler by allowing them to mash-up popular web applications into personal widgets.”

    It probably sounds like crap and isn’t meant to be THE statement about Teqlo but it’s my idea of how to get at what you do quicker. I personally don’t relate to terms like “personal workspace” because I’m just not savvy like that. Plus, I find the idea of what you do very cool and want to use it, but in terms of evangelizing it to my friends, I’d need more than just one sentence to get them hooked. You need to start somewhere though as I am sure Google did when they said “we are a search engine” then followed by all the details of why the hell you should care more about them than their comeptition. Just some thoughts! Use or ignore them.

  13. All good feedback, I have incorporated it into the pitch. Thanks for helping.

  14. Pingback Hitchhiker’s Guide to 650 :: Honing the Pitch :: January :: 2007
  15. I love watching VCs squirm…..seeing the tables turned like this is great!

    My advice: boil it down to WHAT YOU DO not what you WANT to do.

    Keep in mind that it took eBay ten years before they were able to say “you can get IT on eBay.” I’m sure their first positioning statement was something ULTRA SIMPLE like “online auctions for everyone.”

    Courtesy of the Internet Archive the eBay mission statement circa 1998 was:

    “We help people trade practically anything on earth.”

    Now you’re talking – there is no “WTF nomenclature” or VC mumbo jumbo in that statement.

    Forget the position statement, the real question is whether or not Teqlo passes “the blink test.” Sorry. I couldn’t resist. : )

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