Lesson 23 of 32
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Question 01: Who cares? – OPTION 1

Linda September 16, 2020

If you skipped over Question 0 and have not yet identified your target audience and their “fear and greed”, please take a moment now and get clarity on this critical item before proceeding! The utility of your answers to every single one of the 10 Questions depends on your ability to frame them accordingly.

Caveat: Always inform your answers with integrity. People invest in people who they know, like and trust. Your answers must reflect your own values, vision and capabilities as well as address those of your audience (through your understanding of their “fear and greed”). Think of your pitch as building a bridge between you and your audience so that you can realize a mutual vision together.

Most innovators start their pitch with a description of what they do. But most audiences hear about great new ideas every day of the week. If they took the time to understand every solution presented to them, they would have no time to do anything else.

Answer Question 01 First. Always.

Your job in answering Question 1: Who cares? is to give context to your solution, to help your audience empathize with the people who are dealing with the problem you are solving.

That context can be pretty simple: If you are a PI trying to recruit students to do lab work in a hot new technology, you probably don’t even need a full sentence to get their full attention and excitement.

But if you are trying to convince a grant manager who is funding standard solutions for a big problem and you have a completely novel approach for solving it, you are going to need to work hard to frame the problem so that they are willing to accept an outlier technology.

E.g., let’s say the funding organization wants to fund more efficient solar cells, so the RFP talks about novel materials, but you have a solution that will make any material more efficient in operation due to its superior cooling capabilities. You may not be able to win over the grant manager if they are restricted to funding materials development, but you may have a shot if you can frame the problem – efficiency – as more important than the solution technology – cooling system rather than materials development.

Examples of Audience Fear & Greed


The video refers to the fear and greed of an investor audience:

  • Fear that only your Mom and best friend will buy one each of what you are making.
  • Greed that everyone and their grandmother will want several.

For other audiences, fear and greed may vary as follows:

Grant Manager

  • Fear: The applicant does not really understand the problem in the RFP and is simply quoting generic information.
  • Greed: The applicant understands not just the superficial definition of the problem but the specific aspects that can be addressed to the benefit of people dealing with the problem.

Tips & Tools

Your answer to Question 1 sets the stage for your entire pitch. Take the time to be sure you have correctly and accurately captured the specific problem you are solving. For instance, I coached a cannabis company once where they framed the problem as brand identity and regulation, when in fact the problem was that crop testing was too slow and expensive to do comprehensively. Brand identity and regulatory approval did depend on comprehensive testing, but by starting with the regulatory issue rather than testing, it was easy for the audience to get the wrong idea. We shifted it to describing the overall biggest challenge for producers was having an economically viable way to monitor the quality of their product while it was growing, and the audience was able to understand the enormous leverage the company brought.

When you answer Question 1, be sure you focus on the following steps (hypothetical situations are listed as sub-bullets for illustrative purposes):

  1. Who has the problem?
    • Is it students who might want to work in your lab?
    • People who need clean water in rural communities?
    • Pharmaceutical companies that need faster drug candidate assessment?
  2. How important is that problem?
    • Do your students need a salary or experience?
    • Do the people who need clean water have access to water if they spend all day walking to and from a clean well, or is their only alternative to get sick?
    • Do the pharma companies need a faster or more accurate system?
    • How can you tell?
  3. How many people have the problem?
    • One or two, so you can handle them on a case-by-case basis?
    • Or hundreds?
    • Or tens of thousands?
    • Or millions?
  4. Why are current solutions failing?
    • Does your lab have too low of a profile to attract attention from skilled students?
    • Does boiling water before consumption take up too much firewood?
    • Are the pharma companies losing money or time due to overly precise or too expensive tests?



Please go to your editable PDF from the Materials tab of the Download lesson, and enter a one-minute pitch (~ 200 words) that describes why the audience you identified in Question 0 should pay attention to your pitch, i.e., why the problem you are solving is of sufficient magnitude and relevance to that audience (even if they never heard of it previously) that it merits their most valuable asset, their time and attention.


After you write at least a draft of your Question 1 elevator pitch, go to the PowerPoint file that you downloaded from the Materials tab of the Download lesson.

If you are writing a pitch for the Ignition Award, please follow the directions in the first few slides.

If you are not addressing the Ignition Award, please go to page #6, titled “Problem & Market”. This slide is framed for an investor audience, but the type of content is the same even if the context is different. Create an image or cartoon or series of short bullets that lays out your case in terms of the four questions in the Tips & Tools section above.

Next Question…

When you have completed the written and PowerPoint exercises, please go on to Question 2. If you have followed the recommended process, describing your solution should be a straightforward process of showing how your solution is different from the existing ones that are failing.

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