You launched your company a few months ago. You have some initial customers who are regularly using your product. With that in place you are starting to fundraise (are you ready financially?) and those preliminary discussions are going well. These are some of the first little signs that maybe you have something special.
And you just got invited to one of the largest startup showcase in the world in Lisbon, Portugal - Web Summit. Seventy thousand attendees will float by your booth including investors, potential new customers, and partners.
You get pre-designed signage in a 3-foot square space, and the only part you can add is your company name and about a 10-word description in a sentence. There are 32 peer companies just in your section alone. Your first thought - how do I stand out? Your brain kicks into overdrive and though you have never marketed a product or represented a company at a trade show, you have an idea.
Choose your words carefully as you have about 3 seconds to make a first impression.
Last week I attended Web Summit as well as the Ecosystem Summit day and I walked the 5 cavernous pavilions with those thousands of attendees. Extremely large booth footprints with multi-room configurations were doled out to Amazon, Microsoft, SAP, Google, and Samsung. Smaller but impressive floor footprints representing places like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Spain and even the islands of Casa Verdes were present.
In the middle of these behemoths, in the cluster of 32 startups each getting that 3-foot by 3-foot sign and enough room for 1-2 people ready to pitch their company . . . your sign said your company name followed by "startup unicorn".
First of all what does that even mean? A unicorn is a private company valued at $1B or over. Almost by definition, your phrase is an oxymoron like George Carlin's "jumbo shrimp". Second, is that phrase supposed to attract me to come over? Oh my gosh, my brain screamed. There is a company here that already knows it will get to unicorn status.
As an active and long-time investor, I can share that it did not work, In fact it left one impression and one impression only in my mind. This founder is a rookie and knows nothing about marketing.