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The startup question bank: 40 key questions for founders

Madanmohan Rao
27th Feb 2015
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Making a pitch and telling the ‘startup story’ is an integral part of life for all entrepreneurs. Attracting employees, customers, partners and investors all require the founder to successfully pitch a compelling story about the organisation and its offerings.

yourstory_Startup_Question_Bank

The emerging trend of crowd-funding opens an even larger investor community for startups, making it more important for founders to give good pitches and answer probing questions. The recent Bangalore Crowd Pitch Challenge was organised by crowd-funding platform CatapooltNASSCOM’s 10,000 Startups initiative, Unitus Seed Fund and YourStory. It featured pitches by a range of entrepreneurs to the jury at a terrific new venue for startup events: the Big Pitcher microbrewery.

Crowdpitch---Catapult
Catapult for founders who don't finish their pitch on time!

The featured startups were: RentSher (online rentals), Pynme (GPS tracking solutions), HereNow (hyperlocal communication), DigiCollect (geo-analytics for real estate), eCourierz (comparison shopping for couriers), Cooey Technologies (healthcare IoT), Tanlft Bike, SchemesCentral (commitment deals marketplace), i-Give (food services for the hungry), Mean Metal Motors (design team for supercars), WordPlay (Android word game for mobile), LabInApp (3D simulation app for school labs), Qbeeko (collaboration and discovery platform), ClinkR (trusted O2O connections), Freekall (free ad-supported voice calls), DoSelect (collaborative hiring tool for tech companies) and India.Edu Film (proposed film on India’s education system).

Crowdpitch---jury
Jury at startup competition

As usual, most of the entrepreneurs found it difficult to finish their pitch within the stipulated three minutes, and Catapoolt had a creative way to tell them their time was up: flashing strobe lights and the threat of being shot at with a catapult. The questions from the jury revealed important and interesting angles all startups must factor during their pitches.

Here are 40 questions from the jurors, sorted in thematic order below. See how many of these questions you can answer, and how fast. Some of the questions are for physical product companies, others are for software products and platforms.

Crowdpitch---winners
Winning startups

Startup Question Bank:

  1. Are you working on this full-time?
  2. How complete is your team?
  3. Are you a product player, service or mixed?
  4. Are you B2B, B2C or a mix?
  5. What gap are you filling in the market today?
  6. Describe your use case scenarios.
  7. What has been the previous exposure of customers to related products?
  8. When will you get out of PoC stage?
  9. What metrics do you have that this product works/delivers?
  10. How many platforms are you available on?
  11. What analytics do you offer?
  12. What visualisation tools make your product easy to use?
  13. How will you manage logistics without getting overwhelmed?
  14. How are you managing inventory?
  15. What are the unit economics?
  16. How do you select/standardise pricing points?
  17. How will your business model survive without ads?
  18. How does your product/app work in offline scenarios?
  19. How are you doing marketing?
  20. What is your one-line pitch?
  21. What seasonal specials do you have?
  22. What is your understanding of the consumer’s decision process?
  23. How much traction do you have?
  24. Describe the experience of your first three customers.
  25. Who is your most valuable customer today?
  26. What are some engagement trends/patterns so far?
  27. How long does it take for a customer to get up and running?
  28. How easy is it to integrate your product with existing ones?
  29. Who owns the data generated by your product?
  30. Who will get most excited by your product?
  31. When will you break even?
  32. Who is your competitor and how do you differentiate?
  33. There are 20+ players in this crowded space. How is your pitch different?
  34. Which partners are marketing your product, and how?
  35. What are the legal/regulatory/compliance issues?
  36. How well does your model scale across target sectors?
  37. What is your pan-India strategy?
  38. What benefits does this give to a corporate CIO?
  39. How scaleable is it for you to launch new products/offerings?
  40. How will you use the prize money or funds? How would you use 10X prize money?
Crowdpitch---founders
Founders pitching at the Big Pitcher!

YourStory will collect more such questions from pitch competitions and compile them into a useful resource: a Startup Question Bank. If you have been a juror for startup competitions in the past, please send us relevant questions you’ve asked, and we'll aggregate them into our Question Bank.

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