Proven Need

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How to use your product's emotional hook to get funded

Carly Dryhurst-Smith

UX Lead @ Forward Partners

Your pitch is more than a business plan, it’s an articulation of how you’re going to fill a gap in the market. You can only gauge this by knowing what’s available to people currently, and what people want or need. Get pitch-ready by being able to demonstrate that you know you’re fulfilling a human-centred need, in a way that no competitor is doing right now.

Key takeaways

  • Build your ideas around a concept which resonates with people on an emotional level

  • Be able to prove, through customer research, that people care about your proposed product and that they can’t currently fulfil their needs elsewhere

  • Be passionate about creating something which will enhance the lives of your consumer and allow that to drive your company mission

Bring some emotion into your investment pitch

Here at Forward Partners, we host regular Office Hours, where we invite idea stage startups to come and meet with someone from our investment team. Often these companies are seeking feedback on their idea, but equally, of course, are looking for funding. We have a three-fold philosophy of what we look for in these quick-fire meetings, to gauge whether this might be a suitable investment for us:

  • Is it tackling a big market?

  • Does the company have a strong founder / early team?

  • Is the company tackling a big customer pain point?

It’s quite usual that as well as an investor, myself or another member of the Product team will also be present in these meetings. For me, as UX Lead, it’s absolutely integral that each product presented to us has an emotional hook. I’ll always ask questions like,

‘How will this help people?’,

‘How is this different to what’s out there currently?’ and

‘How will this make people feel?’.

Unless there’s a proven need for the platform you’re creating, it’s going to be extremely difficult to convince investors and users alike to buy into it.

Knowing your audience

The best way to know how to cater to an audience’s needs and ultimately delight users is by finding out what problems they want solutions for. Putting their problem at the centre of your business plan, and crafting solutions around it will align your product with a user’s expectations, and resonate with their emotional needs. You’ll also already know there’s a customer-base to tap into.

Some great businesses have been born from the founder actually needing a solution to something themselves, and deciding to build it. Two of our partner companies, Patch and Appear Here, were founded by entrepreneurs who saw that the market wasn’t catering to something they wanted, and consequently they sought to change that (you can read Patch’s story here). This approach could have both positive and negative aspects: On one hand the passion to solve a problem and the close understanding of the user needs can drive a strong solution, but equally it can mean that the founders might be too close to the subject to create something that will scale. It’s important to note that these examples work well because they tackled big markets, presenting a good investment opportunity.

Whether it’s a problem you have yourself, or one you’re a witness to, make sure you have a depth of qualitative and quantitative research to back up your idea. The idea won’t stick by simply being anecdotal, nor will it succeed if you concentrate too much on numbers and don’t understand your audience. In your own pitch for investment, remember to balance both the business strategy and your passion for your mission.

Create a customer-centric business plan

Business transactions can be clinical at times, but the heart of your product needs to come from a deeper, more complex understanding of human behaviour, interaction and need. In this article, our Product Partner Dharmesh spoke about knowing your product loop, which is the core issue you’re looking to resolve.

Take for example, They understood that for longevity of placement in a role, they needed to ask candidates what would make them happy in their jobs. This focussed not only on skills, but culture, opportunity to grow, and social and environmental elements.  They created a platform whereby candidates could articulate what matters to them in their career, and match them with employers who offer it, turning the traditional employment search on its head.

At it’s centre, the product answers the questions I would always ask: It helps people by matching them relevantly with jobs they’d enjoy and would accelerate their development, it’s completely different to what’s around because it makes the employer work harder, and it makes candidates feel positive, and in control. If you can explain your vision as clearly as this, then you’re off to a very strong start.

We often see a chart comparing a startup’s solution to the competition, which usually shows the competitors have fewer features or a less capable tech-stack. Whilst this holds weight, investors really want to hear about what makes your business more suitable to the market, more scalable than the pack, and why it has a stronger emotional pull than anyone else, to feel more certain that it’s a stand-out example. It’s also worth mentioning that products which are simple and easy-to-use and have a stronger customer focus tend to win out over feature-heavy, complex ideas. Anyone can build features, but it takes real time, effort and drive to understand your customers and build elegant solutions around what they’re asking for.


Your business and it’s growth plan, must balance out two core things: A product which truly adds value to the lives of your customers, and a strategy to help it conquer a big market. The only other key ingredient is you: your tenacity, self-motivation, empathy and openness to explore. If you have all of these elements, then you’re on your way.

If you want to meet one our investment team about your business, then you can apply for our next Office Hours

Carly Dryhurst-Smith

UX Lead @ Forward Partners

Carly’s focus has been in digital, interface and print design at start-ups and agencies. She endeavours to craft beautiful, simple and intuitive experiences which prioritise the consumer’s needs. Most recently, Carly worked as the UX Designer at Topshop, with a team at Arcadia and on the reviews and ratings platform Reevoo. She has a strong passion for building fair, stable and delightful solutions, which create measurable value for users. She believes genuine brand advocacy and repeat custom grow from developing human-centric products.

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