Focusing the Vishion

I have been pitching our startup, Vishion, for six months now. Whether it’s talking to advisors, a pitch competition, speaking with investors or giving a ten second soundbite in front of a large audience, the clarity of the message is everything.

Learning to absorb feedback is critical to finding your voice. Listening to different opinions doesn’t just change the way you deliver your speech, it can also focus or change the path of your business. This doesn’t mean you take all feedback to heart. I personally listen to all comments with an open mind, sleep on it, then reexamine the few ideas that still stick out. The more you pitch, the more you’ll notice certain topics reappearing in the feedback, highlighting your weak spots.

One Vishion advisor suggested that I create a spreadsheet for investor feedback, making a point to write down all follow-up questions immediately after a meeting. Having a cofounder in the room to write down the questions in real-time is even better. This allows us to reflect, hopefully better understanding why certain points weren’t clear or, in some cases, re-examining business decisions to consider if changes need to be made.

When it comes to Vishion, we have yet to pivot based on the feedback we’ve received. Instead, we’ve learned how to narrow our focus, fine-tune our priorities and find the heart of our messaging.

 

 

Don’t Boil the Ocean

The first time I pitched Vishion to advisor Eric Olson, he told me, “you don’t need to solve retails problems in one day.” When you have a company, you can clearly see its future potential. That’s what makes it so exciting: you’ve already played out the entire movie in your mind, while everyone else is still watching the trailers.

Amazon grew out of CEO Jeff Bezos’ desire to build an “everything store.”  But when Bezos was first thinking about launching the company, he knew that a store that sold absolutely everything would be an unrealistic goal. So he tried to zero in on a single product category: books. It took Amazon three years to expand their offering to other products. It was then that the New York Times labeled the company “the most successful merchant on the Internet.”

Vishion has always focused on true color search as our differentiator, but if you can gain access to such granular details about a product you can create a search engine that encompasses all elements of a product. That could include details like color and size, but also stock, location availability and connectivity to a physical store.

From day one, I could see my search for a green nightstand ending in a physical store. I want to allow shoppers looking for furniture, matching apparel or products for their wedding to search and find the exact product online or in stock at a local store. While I can envision day one at Vishion to day 1,000, it’s a dream that can be hard to swallow for someone you’ve just met.

 

Survey Says…

The color-search struggle is real. The human eye can see 10,000,000 colors, but you only get 16 color categories to chose from on the average retailers website. When plugging in search terms for Google or Pinterest, how can we be sure that we both have the same definition for teal? We select our outfits everyday based on color. Many homeowners have a color-scheme for each of their rooms. An entire wedding surrounds a specific color palette. Knowing all of this, where do we begin?

The Vishion team went to a local mall to speak with shoppers about their color-search experience. After bothering dozens of mall-goers with our survey questions, we noticed a few common themes. Respondents almost always mentioned furniture or home décor issues when discussing color search issues. Those that had returned products based on color mentioned the item being in a completely different color categorization than the image online. For example, one respondent said he bought red shoes, but they ended up being pink.

In addition to our in-person interviews, we conducted surveys online. Our key findings include:

  • 47% of shoppers returned a product because it was a different color than expected
  • 52% of shoppers said it was difficult to search for furniture by color online, while 33% said it was difficult to find apparel by color
  • 55% of shoppers have abandoned a purchase due to concern over finding matching items
  • 47% of respondents believed a mobile application could replace a personal shopper
  • 57% of respondents usually have a product or style in mind before visiting a store in person

 

Decor first

We decided to focus our efforts on decor color-search first. Shoppers consider furniture and decor as a long-term investment. This means the search and selection process is more thorough. The purchases are not only more expensive, but are also seen as a clear reflection of a homeowners taste and personality. While existing platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are great for inspiration, hours of searching and dead-ends are fairly normal occurrences.

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We are allowing interior designers to access the Beta version of Vishion for their thoughts on existing search tools. As you can see from their color search stories above, their constant need for a color search tool makes designers the ultimate initial users.

Our theory: if you can meet a designers standards, we can assist all shoppers searching for a specific product.

To get on the Vishion waitlist, we asked designers to tell us their color search stories, as well as the amount of time they typically spend searching when color is a factor. Of the more than 250 interior designers are on our waitlist, 68% saying it takes at least an hour when searching for products of a specific color. 

 

A quick pitch

In a matter of minutes, or even seconds, an entrepreneur must convince investors that they, and their startup, are a bet worth taking. I told you we have lofty goals to create a product search engine, with color search as our initial differentiator. But how do you explain this vision? What should you include and leave out in an initial discussion?

 

One thing that took me multiple conversations to understand is that it was okay to only show a small snippet of the Vishion’s plan to entice further discussion. I had concerns that I would miss opportunities because the person on the other end wasn’t seeing the whole picture.

What I learned was the initial nugget was enough to get people excited about the entire gold mine.

Presented in its entirety, those listening would get overwhelmed with the grand idea or think we were unfocused.  Although that wasn’t the case, the opportunity was already missed because they would assume we didn’t have a clear go to market strategy.

With a lot of practice, I would say we’ve come close to perfecting our pitch. We are constantly making fixes, especially as the audience we speak with changes. While our messaging has gained clarity, the mission is still the same. Vishion is a color-focused search engine, with the potential to provide the best product search and suggestion online. Get on the Vishion waitlist and follow us on Linkedin for company updates today.

 

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