Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Great startup founders pitch benefits.

Mediocre ones drone on about features.

Bret Waters
2 min readMay 3, 2024


Last week I attended an event hosted by StartX, the startup accelerator program for Stanford-associated startup founders and investors. Each startup in the current cohort stood up in front of a crowded room and gave their 60-second pitch.

One founder began his 60-seconds by asking the audience “Who here thinks the rent is too damn high?”. And of course nearly everyone in the room raised their hand.

He went on to talk about his startup, Buildcheck, which uses AI to help builders and real estate developers to get through the application and permitting process more efficiently.

So it turned out that the actual connection to rent being high was pretty tenuous, resting on the notion that money saved by real estate developers would be passed along as savings for renters. But by starting with articulating a potential benefit for everyone in the audience, he had the attention of the entire room and got an excellent response to his 60-second pitch.

If he had started with his pitch with something like “Buildcheck can recognize thousands of elements across construction drawings, delivering actionable insights into ways to make permit submittals get through the review process…”, it’s unlikely the audience would have really cared much about his pitch.

Two main takeaways from this:

  • Great startup founders how how to articulate benefits, while mediocre ones drone on about features.
  • Great startup founders know how to adjust messaging on the fly, depending on who they are talking to. If this guy was talking to a room full of real estate developers, he likely would have opened his pitch in a whole different way.

As I always tell my Stanford students, engineers develop features, but customers buy benefits. An important point to remember, for startup founders and innovators everywhere.



Bret Waters

Silicon Valley guy. Teaches at Stanford. Eats fish tacos.