It’s the time of year when in many countries around the world people are thinking of taking a break, and spending time with family and friends. The airwaves are full of seasonal songs, perhaps most of all being ‘White Christmas’. It will be playing in shopping malls around the world almost irrespective of whether Christmas is being celebrated in a particular country. However, what I’m dreaming of is a White… Paper.
The term White Paper is associated with the document created by many online businesses, particularly those in the cryptosphere to introduce the enterprise to the world. It originally comes from governmental policy documents, designed for forward planning, so it’s not an unsuitable name. However, because ‘White Paper’ has become so associated with the cryptosphere, I prefer to use the term ‘Prospectus’, more commonly found in conventional non-cyber businesses. Either way, whether your paper is white, or your prospectus is any other color, it has to do its job.
This means that you must fill those blank pages with meaningful, valuable information that tells your audience enough to get them really interested, but not too much! Too much and they can decide that all their questions are answered, and that your offering is not for them.
So the job confronting you when you stare at the empty page is to tell the story of your enterprise in as concise a way as possible. The simplest and most important thing to keep in mind at all times is that while to you, the solution you are offering is what it’s all about, this isn’t the case for your audience. The prime thing you must address, up front and center, is the problem (or problems) that you are addressing with your offering. If there were no problems, then your wonderful solution would have no value.
The Problem/Solution path is a great one to walk, because it gives a structure to your prospectus, and draws people in. You’re aiming to create ‘aha!’ moments where your reader understands and appreciates a situation. They can see themselves in that situation, or see others affected by it. As soon as there is empathy, then understanding follows. If there is understanding, then people will get interested and start to ask further questions. This is exactly what your prospectus should be doing! You are not attempting to give all the answers (how could you?) – but to pose enough questions and answers to move onto the next stage.
The process of asking and answering questions means a dialog has started. When this happens then you are on the way to knowing your audience. The prospectus opens the door to this because people can see that there is something solid and real about your offering.
It’s laid out in a logical and interesting way. It shows a step-by-step approach which is easy to understand, expressed in clear language. And by the way, just because it’s sometimes called a White Paper doesn’t mean that it should be bland or boring! The prospectus should be bright, colorful, well-designed and above all, professional. That means that every word should be crafted, every line proof-read. It means being aware of cultural differences, and the potential impact of any images you may use.
Everything in your prospectus is a reflection of your startup – along with your website, it’s your shop window to the world, so it better look really good.
One of the things which most prospectuses contain will be a roadmap – the key points along the route. It’s important to show that you are aware of time constraints, and where you will be on the road at certain points. Investors want to know that you know the clock is ticking. You’re not rushing too quickly towards launch, but you’re not going too slowly either! Roadmaps don’t always have to be super-accurate, but they do need to show ‘by’ points: as in “Launch beta-version by end of August.” Most serious investors know how to interpret a roadmap, and for that matter the whole prospectus. So they know that things don’t always go exactly in the planned direction, but they surely expect to see that there is a plan.
Then there’s your credibility. Whatever past achievements the team has, make sure that these are included in your prospectus. OK, if your CEO won a medal for high jump in school, maybe that’s not relevant. If you have a Nobel prizewinner on the team, that certainly is. Don’t hide your Nobel prizewinner away in the closet! – Put them front and center, if their skills are relevant, of course.
And if you have advisors or investors already onboard, their names and bios can add huge credibility to your offering. OK, so maybe your team is young, but if a well-known investor is already providing support, or if a business advisor is featured in the prospectus, this makes potential investors feel a lot more comfortable. In particular, of course, investors are looking for previous success in launching businesses, so if you have a great track record, don’t be shy about it!
Startups entrepreneurs dream of success, but actually it’s not about dreaming, it’s about doing. One of the most important things you can do initially is create a great Whitepaper-stroke-Prospectus. Make it clear, well-designed, and don’t try and push every bit of information into it! 20 to 30 pages is quite enough to show investors that you are Serious About Success.
Don’t dream about it… Do it!
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