Answering Questions as a Startup

You’ve got the idea, honed the pitch, but are you ready to go? Answering questions well is key to landing customers and investors.

Manu Chatterjee

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Question marks (photo by author)
image by author

Intro

I’ve been blessed to experience the fun and chaos of founding a few companies. As I get ready to hit the road again, I realize that how I respond to questions is just as important as a great pitch and a fantastic demo. This piece provides a list of questions and a few guidelines about answering questions from an entrepreneur’s perspective. Just as important, there are nuances on what makes a good answer or, in some cases, a bad answer.

An essential part of answer preparation are the ideas of the audience (who is asking), shape (how to answer), and coverage (knowledge of the topic). I’ll touch on these first. Then the questions are roughly grouped by area. The list is quite long but you don’t need to be able to answer every question to hit it out of the park.

One final point is this: the answers should form in your head “almost instantly” for your venture. If not, it’s a good sign of an area that needs work. More on that later. So even though there are a lot of questions, if you find yourself not being able to speed through the answers it points back to work areas. Best to have those addressed before you go live!

Also if you’re struggling to speed through some of the questions in your mind, try substituting your business with a well established business you know, such as Uber or McDonalds. Think about how you would answer for that business instead of yours and see if you can reflexively answer. Then go back to your business and drive for the same clarity.

Before we get the question list, lets go in to the audience, shape, and coverage.

Audience

It’s not just getting the answer “right.” Given the same question, different people are looking for different details. Think about who is asking — is it an investor, a customer, or a team member? The same information should be given in different ways. Here are just a few perspectives and ideas about the emphasis on what they are often looking for.

  • Customer — emphasis is on benefits (“How does this…

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Manu Chatterjee

Engineer and Father of two. Passionate about, science, music, short stories, and little things that make life interesting.