It's tough to get an investor's attention. Inundated by warm introductions, cold emails, and entrepreneurs thrusting business cards at events, standing out often comes down to how closely you're connected or how hot your market is. If your introducer is a college roommate or you're working in artificial intelligence, you're all set. A friend of a former neighbor or box subscription services, not so much.
The one word that will always perk an investor's ear is growth. No matter what your product or the (in)experience of your team, rising metrics can't, and won't, be ignored.
I recently looked at a company with a sole, first time founder, three weeks post-launch doing something that seemed very simple and for web-based users. While technical, the team was small and had no brand name backgrounds aside from one advisor. It wasn't mobile. It was solving a common but not overly inconvenient problem for consumers. It hadn't even been released for a month. But, it was already growing at an incredible pace - so many user sign-ups that a wait list had to be implemented to avoid an infrastructure breakdown. People were writing in that they loved the product, and others were begging to try it. Usage volumes were almost doubling week over week.
Nothing about this company seemed to check any the "high probability of success" boxes that an investor often looks for in a cursory review - repeat entrepreneurs, massive market, unique technology. Traction is a word frequently used and difficult to define. It means something different for every product, in every vertical at every stage, and is often just a snapshot in time. It's not standardized; what I consider impressive may not even matter to another investor. It was impossible though not to get excited about this company, or at the very least, be intrigued to learn more.
Growth is the single metric that cuts across every company and every geography. It is more persuasive and less superficial than any other factor, is based on data and almost impossible with which to argue. Growth need not be astronomical; steady and sustained is often more telling for the long term. If you're growing, you're doing something right, and that's always worth an investor's attention.