Rocketr, don’t tell a story. Answer questions.

Loren BurtonJuly 10, 2012

This is a response to What We Should Have Said To PG

Rocketr, you still don’t get it.

I applaud the fact that you’re reflecting on your chat with PG – analyzing what went wrong and how you could have done it differently. Unfortunately, I don’t think you see the core issue at hand. It has nothing to do with storytelling – it has to do with answering some questions – something you still failed to do even in retrospection.

Your revised intro:

"Rocketr bridges two worlds that could not be further apart right now – how we capture information (using personal tools), and how we get work done (using team-based tools). We’re betting that these worlds will converge, because if they don’t, it will get harder and harder for teams if they can’t collaborate at the speed that information is changing around them. Oh… and the medium we use to facilitate all this, is note-taking – something we all know how to do." I’m illustrating the pain, the trends, and only at the end do I mention the vehicle by which we go about it.

I still don’t see the problem here. What are you solving? What are the tools that are currently being used? Why are they so horrible? Do people wake agonize over these treacherous solutions, ripping their hair out and wishing there was something better?

Your revised response about customers:

"Paul, we think Y Combinator needs this in a big way. You’re managing 460+ companies. I’m guessing you send them articles, competitive intel, potential customer leads, and a wealth of other ideas. You’re probably using email to do it. And while you might use labels or folders to keep all this information organized on your end, your startups don’t have access to that. You’re effectively relying on them to either a) action every idea immediately, or b) do multiple queries of their inbox every time they want to revisit an idea you guys discussed."

Interesting tactic, but you’re assuming PG and YC have a problem that they might not actually have – and that’s a risky assumption, because the response could flush your whole ‘story’ down the toilet. Aside: I'm not sure you're even familiar with how YC works - to say they 'manage 460 companies' is a gross exaggeration. They are investing in founders, advising them, guiding them, networking them, and sending them off into the wild with the occasional chat every once in a while. So step 0: know your customer.

Anyway, back on subject: maybe they do use email, and maybe it works flawlessly. Maybe there is no issue. So who actually needs what you’re building? Have you talked to potential customers? Have you reached out and gathered honest opinions?

Incredibly, after all of this, I still couldn’t figure out what Rocketr actually does or what problem it aims to solve. I explored your website, only to be confronted with “Collaborative notetaking” (and some other fluff). I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. Why do I want to take notes with other people? How will this note-taking happen? Is this an iPad app? Web app? Can I use it on my Kindle Fire? Is it a new electronic device altogether?

Ultimately, the I’m left wondering what the eff your product does and how it does it. I’m sure PG felt the same way.

You need to rethink this storytelling thing. Jason Lotito says it nicely:

"You need an elevator pitch. Something that describe what the product is, who the customer is, and what problem does it solve for the customer, and how it solves it. From there, you can expand, but something simple, something straight forward. Something that is filled with nouns and verbs. Because, I honestly believe if you can't define your product like that, you don't completely understand it as well."

Please heed this advice.

Open to discussion on Hacker News