How Southeast Asian Founders Answer the Most Annoying Question

published 02 Sept 2016

It’s one thing to describe your business to potential investors. They will most likely already have an idea what you’re talking about. Because it’s their money you’re asking them to part with, chances are they already know as much about the business as you do.
It’s another thing to describe your start-up to friends, family and acquaintances during social events such as birthdays or cocktail hour.
Imagine, for instance, being in a family reunion, with everybody from your baby nieces and nephews to your adorable grandmother in attendance. Imagine them asking: “So what do you do?”
In your mind, the details of your business make perfect sense. You know the ins and outs of your own start-up. You can talk about what you do, what you want to achieve, what your day-to-day operations look like. You can talk a mile a minute about the problems you are facing and the trends you are anticipating.
But that’s you. Remember you have a more challenging task than your cousins who are doctors, lawyers, chefs or journalists. Your first hurdle from your favorite aunt may even be: “What is a start-up, anyway?”
In an article in Forbes Magazine, Diana Kaunder of Kauffman Foundation, an organization of start-ups based in Missouri gives a few tips on how to explain your start-up to others:

1. Keep it short

Actually, they’re just being nice. Your relatives or high school classmates really just want to know that you are doing something productive, and that you’re not bumming around or living off your parents’ retirement benefits.
“I run a business that allows people to order groceries online and have them delivered to their houses” would suffice.

2. Identify the problem you are solving

All professions exist to make the world a slightly better, or more bearable place. Doctors cure sick people. Lawyers defend the helpless. Chefs whip up dishes that fill us up and delight our senses. Talk about the inconveniences that your business is helping address.
“We provide solar power to communities without electricity,” would be acceptable.

3. Explain your solution in one sentence

Again, the person asking about your job is likely just making conversation, finding a way to connect with you. Don’t make that connection elusive. Say “Our diet programs and healthy recipes are published on our Web site. Customers can choose what they think fits them” and you will probably get a follow-up question -- maybe an order or a referral, if you’re lucky.

4. Personalize it

Make your explanation relate to the one asking about your business. If you run a restaurant review or booking site, you can get him to talk about his favorite cuisine, or an inconvenient experience he might have had -- which could have been prevented had he known about your business before hand.

5. Stay away from big words

Members of the Young Entrepreneurs Council, an invitation-only group for the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs, published a list of words you should NOT mention while talking about your business. Among the words: “disruptive,” “revolutionary,” “awesome,” among others. Remember, these are people you’ve known a long time: You don’t need to drown them in superlatives and hype.
Remember, these are people you’ve known all your life. There is no need to blow them away. They’re just genuinely curious about what you do.