I want you to imagine a drum kit. Now imagine someone sits on a stool behind it and persistently pounds the snare, the toms, and cymbals violently, repeatedly, and without rest. The resulting bash of noise is nothing you would expect from a top performer or something you'd want to hear on a record. It sucks.
Now think about someone else who tactfully and precisely plays each piece of the kit with rhythm and technique. They create a series of harmonious tones that entice your ears. They don't hit every piece at the exact same time, they let them breathe and give each its due space in the spotlight. They rest between notes.
Same principle applies to design. If you try to play all the pieces of your kit (a call to action, a tagline, your logo, information, graphs, charts, etc) at once, you will create noise.
Rest between notes.
When venture capitalists search for companies to invest in, they are counting on the competence of the founders and the entire team to win. Meaning, if there are more hints that this company will result in failure than it will success, it's unlikely they will invest in it. They look for indicators to assess worthy startups.
A similar and time-tested method is seen in the duck test coined by James Whitcomb Riley. You've heard it before, "when I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck."
Now let's apply this to a startup, specifically two kinds of startups. One that is a good investment and one that is a risky investment.
A startup that walks like a good investment
The manner by which a startup carries itself says a lot. This includes outward appearance and poise. If you look like trash or are missing key pieces of attire, expect the reception of your appearance to follow suit. For example, not having a website in the 21st century is the equivalent of showing up to a party without pants. You're missing something and it reveals a hole in your competence. Same could be said of the design of your product or your branding. Negligence of these is reason to believe that you are not a worthwhile investment.
A startup that swims like a good investment
A duck's primary function is to swim. They are very good at it. Similarly, a startup's job is to make money through having a worthy offering. There needs to be proof of this. If you don't have a solution to a prevalent problem that will make a difference, customers will not use you. If customers don't use you then investors can't either. If you want revenue, of any kind, you need something worth giving up money to have.
A startup that quacks like a good investment
Trickier than the last two, but important nonetheless. A duck's quack is the outward expression to signify "I AM A DUCK." What's a startups outward expression? "I am valuable to others." Meaning, people will pay for what I have to offer because it is more valuable than their money. The brevity of a quack is just as important. The more succinct, the easier it is to identify. This comes in the form of positioning and high-level brand messaging. Failure to define your quack will make it difficult for investors to identify you as a good investment.
If it walks like a worthy startup, swims like a worthy startup, and quacks like a worthy startup... it must be a worthy startup. Worthy of customer buy-in and investor money.
Can you pass the duck test?
How much marketshare do you want? All of it?
Wow. That's an ambitious goal.
You want it now? Dang. Sounds like you're a real go-getter.
You can't have it.
At least not now. You're not ready. But there is a clear starting point that every successful software out there has shown us: build for neophiles. The innovators and early-adopters. It simply doesn't make sense to build for anyone else. Here's why:
Whenever we create something truly novel, we engage in pattern interrupt (thanks Seth Godin). Pattern interrupt places a user in a state of decision making, since they have encountered something outside their normal pattern of behavior. Slack, before it was adopted by every single organization worth talking about, was a pattern interrupt. Most teams communicated via email, text, etc. Not very effective. Even so, the thought of switching from the normal, (albeit shitty) pattern requires energy that people don't want to spend... unless trying out new things is their normal.
The only folks who fit that pattern are neophiles. They are people who want to find something new, who want to be in-the-know, and who are joyous when they find something novel they can test. Furthermore, they are the first stepping stone in gaining mass marketshare. If you want the masses to engage with your product, you have to first rally the Neophiles.