Best word of advice: Simplify

By boris, March 04, 2013

I’ve noticed a common theme carries across most of the advice I’ve given to entrepreneurs lately, and that’s to s-i-m-p-l-i-f-y. For example:

1. Simplify your vision. If you find yourself rambling for minutes on end, it’s time to reign in your mission statement. Nobody will remember a 2 or 3 paragraph description, but they will remember a simple statement that’s been distilled down to one powerful sentence.

2. Simplify your pitch desk. Your story is so much more powerful and focused if you can keep your fundraising presentation to 6-8 slides. As Fred Wilson said, “You can explain your business in mind numbing detail or you can inspire an investor and let them imagine. Guess what works better?” If necessary, you can include other slides as an Appendix to reference, but work on telling your story in 8 slides or less.

3. Simplify your UI.

“A modern paradox is that it’s simpler to create complex interfaces because it’s so complex to simplify them.” (Pär Almqvist)

The best interface designs are clean, simple, and get out of the user’s way. All elements are necessary and succinct. Taking away features can be so much harder than adding features, but subtracting often creates the most value for your users.

4. Simplify your metrics. There are metrics and graphs these days to tell you everything from your employees’ favorite break time snacks to how many users in Asia log-on on Tuesdays. Amidst all the detail, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters. Pare down your metrics overload to focus on the three most important metrics that reflect what’s going on right now in your business.

5. Simplify your value proposition: You cannot be all things to all people and your company will never achieve greatness if it’s struggling to be okay in 10 different markets. Focus on your biggest opportunity – the one that offers the most differentiated value proposition and meets the largest potential market – and forget the rest.

This list could go on and on, touching every aspect of your life. Yet, while we can all agree with the premise that ‘less is more,’ it’s so hard to simplify in real life. Simplifying your vision, pitch deck, UI, metrics, value prop, or anything else means taking things away. You need to make hard decisions about what to cut. It’s tough to know when to do it. It’s even tougher to know if you made the right decision.

While it can be particularly difficult to emotionally let go of something you once thought was going to be instrumental to your business, the end result is very beautiful. That’s why we love Apple products. That’s why we remember Facebook’s mission of “making the world more open and connected.” And that’s why investors get inspired by a pitch that tells a clear story in very few words.

My advice…start thinking about simplifying your startup.

 

Discussion on Hacker News: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5319880

 

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  • Mark Evans

    Great advice. I would add simplify your product. Too many startups believe that adding more features is the way to attract more users. In reality, too many features creates confusion and product intimidation – kind of like going to Denny’s, and having to deal with a multi-page menu.

  • http://twitter.com/bwertz Boris Wertz

    Good point

  • http://twitter.com/zunaid zunaid khan

    Great advice, Boris

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  • http://flavors.me/stevievu Stevie Vu

    Websters definition of simplifying.

    a : to diminish in scope or complexity
    b : to reduce to basic essentials
    c : to make more intelligible

    Simplifying can help reduce your stress, keep us focused so that we work intelligently to maximize our time and achieve more. Great post and reminder.