Making Sense of Founder Gibberish
So many early stage founders talk about traction in qualitative bullet points that lack a narrative that's easy to follow and metrics that can be used as a frame of reference for understanding their progress:
"we just demoed X prospect who is very interested"
"we just got a funding commitment for $y"
"we are about to release feature z"
Instead of the fluff, they need to transform these early signals into actual KPIs that highlight growth, in context to the stage they're in.
Early on, when I was raising capital for Social Tables (we raised a total of $30M), I learned that startups have different metric for different stages. It was my job as the founder to identify this stage-specific metric and communicate its trajectory.
In our pre-seed, I focused on media mentions to create scarcity and thus build demand amongst potential investors.
In the seed round, I focused on user growth because I know a b2c product needed traction.
In the A round I focused on ARR because that's what institutional investors cared about.
Finally, in the B round, I started focusing on our marketplace's network effects.
Using the above examples, here is how one can reframe important updates from the qualitative to the quantitative.
"we just demoed X prospect who is very interested" => "we've gotten interest from n% of the top accounts in a certain region"
"we just got a funding commitment from y" => "the latest commitment from ____ means we've circled 80% of the current round"
"we are about to release feature z" => "we're releasing customer-requested features on a weekly cadence, which are driving our net new ACV an average of 10%"
Getting this kind of feedback is why founders, assuming they're coachable, need access to mentors and peers.