Describing your product on AngelList

The problem/solution approach to getting people interested in your company

This is the third post in a series about how to build a proper AngelList profile. The first two cover the prep work and opening lines of a profile.

If a well crafted opening line piques readers’ curiosity, the product section is where you convert that interest into an engaged audience (aka a follower). In just a few sentences, you have to make your company’s purpose incredibly understandable.

Without even knowing it, readers’ eyes jump to the product section of an AngelList profile to understand the problem a startup is solving. So the section’s title can be misleading for editors. The universe of things a startup’s product can be is relatively small: a web application, pharmaceutical, device, content, mobile application, database etc. Meanwhile the universe of problems is vast, confusing and more interesting than what your product literally is. Problems are also more human. We all have them. So the best profiles reveal a commonly understood problem then describe an interesting solution in the form of a product.

Building blocks of awesome product summaries

All of the guidelines I previously discussed about making an awesome opening line apply here too. Here are additional pointers to help demystify the process of nailing the product section.

Get leverage from previous sections

The product section does not exist in a vacuum: 99% of people read it immediately after looking at your opening line and screen shots. So make sure your opening line is well written and a logical lead into this section. Use your screenshots as a visual aid and be selective. Choose no more than three that really show off key features, use cases and designs.

Remember your audience

This section is part of your public profile that will be scraped by search engines. Like your opening line, it must be written to serve the three most common readers: potential hires, potential partners and investors. Overselling to investors is the most common mistake made here. Avoid it.

Focus, focus, focus

This is not the place to explain details or get sidetracked talking about your market. Keep the length between three and six sentences. Shorter is always better here so adjust your language accordingly. All rules are meant to be broken, but if you go beyond six sentences make sure you have thoughtful reasons. A reader wanting to know more is an ideal outcome. She has lots of links within eyesight to click for more detail.

Format for readability on all devices

Make the product section as readable as possible. Beyond keeping it succinct, break it up into digestible mini-paragraphs. Big blocks of text appear daunting, especially when read on a mobile device. Do not take it too far by using bullets. You lose the human voice that is critical to endearing interest. This is not a PowerPoint slide. Your voice matters.

A starting place

If you are stuck, an easy way to approach your first draft is to break the section down into three mini-paragraphs. The first two sentences should summarize the problem in human terms. Avoid complicating the explanation by being overly technical or selling. Describe the pain point as quickly and simply as possible.

The second mini-paragraph should talk about the opportunity to solve the problem. This answers the “what has changed” or “why now” questions. Is mobile disrupting the way a local service is delivered? Have the NSA privacy breeches created an opening for a new encryption? Does the chipset on the 5S create a new market for your service? Answering these questions well gives context and helps the reader quickly connect the dots of your vision.

Close with one or two sentences clarifying exactly what your product is and how it works. Choosing illustrative screenshots makes this part easier and gives you room to describe in words what a photo cannot. Do not get into the exact version or status of your beta. Take those discussions offline.

With that skeleton, you can polish and customize the product section to your specific story.

Finally, it is worth remembering that brief moment when you first describe your company to someone new. That is no small thing. You get to talk about a problem so incredibly important that you are starting a company to fix it. Never take those moments for granted, online or offline. Beyond being incredibly fulfilling, those conversations create awesome serendipity that everyone needs when starting a company.