It's one of the most repeated pieces of advice that start-up founders are told. It's also the one that causes the most head-scratching. If it didn't come from one of the world's most famous investors, it would probably be laughed off as impossible.
The advice, which comes from Fred Wilson, is to keep a pitch deck to just six slides.
The co-founder of Union Square Ventures followed that advice himself when he was raising funds for his investment firm. The result, he said, was that he presented just six powerful points and was able to spend the rest of the meeting holding a "real, substantive conversation."
Reducing your entire plan, your story, all your research, your team bios, your background and your proofs of concept to just six slides sounds like a huge challenge. But I'd bet that what would win the round wouldn't be on any of those slides.
Companies need all sorts of things to build a successful business. They need a good idea, but those are easy; good ideas have a habit of popping up every time you turn on the shower.
They need a team that can execute that idea. That's harder but certainly not impossible. Job sites, colleges and connections can all lead to people with the skills to get stuff done. It might take a few trial periods, some difficult conversations and lots of recommendations but eventually new businesses end up with teams they're proud of.
So maybe what businesses really need is a product that customers are prepared to pay for. Or maybe not. Lots of billion-dollar companies, from Google and Facebook to Twitter and Snapchat, have started with the idea that first you build the audience, then figure out how to squeeze money out of them. Usually, the answer is to charge other companies for the chance to squeeze money out of them.
Even the idea that you need paying customers, as some experts still recommend, is old school.
What makes a successful business is what Fred Wilson's investors would have seen after he had finished presenting his six slides.
They would have seen that he really enjoys what he's doing.
Sure, he wants his business to make money but Fred Wilson is already a rich man. He turned an investment of a few million dollars of Twitter shares into $1.5 billion. He earned 27 times his investment in Tumblr when it was sold to Yahoo, and sold both Zynga and Geocities at the right time. He doesn't need to work any more.
He manages a VC fund because he loves it.
That's the one sign you know your business is going to succeed and it's the sign that has investors opening their wallet. If you enjoy what you're doing, you'll keep doing it. You'll push through the challenges, you'll put in the hours and you'll make it work.
Not for the money, not for the rewards but for the sheer, unbeatable fun of it. If you're having fun with a good business idea, you're almost guaranteed to have success with it.