I Don’t Really Want To Know How Much Money You Have

dOne of the questions a potential investor will ask you in the last few minutes of your meeting will almost invariably be “How much money do you have in the bank?”  Guess what?  They don’t really care about that.

You may be thinking, “Duh, they really want to know how many months I can go on with the money I have.”  That’s closer to the truth but still missing the bigger point.

Let’s take a slight detour into one of the least ‘techie’ things I can think of:  your car’s gas tank.  You don’t really care about how many gallons of gas are in your tank.  What you care (greatly) about is not running out of gas before you get to the next gas station.  So let’s reinvent your gas tank to make it more useful.

Your current gas tank
The arrow on the gauge looks like (squint a little) you have about a 1/4 tank left.

Seemingly better but actually missing the point
A digital display showing you have 3.6 gallons left in your tank.  That’s nice, but is this enough to get to the next gas station?  No way to tell.

Actually better
“You have 30-40 miles of gas left.”  The manufacturer knows what your estimated mpg are for both city and highway driving.  Why not tell me how far I can go?  That way when I see a sign on the highway that says “15 miles to the next rest stop” I know if I should pull off at the rest stop just ahead or push on to the next one.

Even better
I don’t always know where the next gas station is so remaining mileage isn’t always that useful.  But this data is freely available on any number of mapping services.  A smart gas tank would compare your remaining mileage to this data and let you know the number of gas stations you can reach with your remaining fuel.  It could even alert me when I am down to just 1 or 2 reachable gas stations.

Truly awesome
Why stop there?

  • If you are using a GPS device for directions, your car knows where you are going and even if you are not, it should at least be able to infer the direction you are travelling in.  It should be able to ignore the gas stations that I’ve passed and only count the ones ahead of me or on my way to my destinations.
  • If the gas station has a website with its hours of operation, a really smart gas tank would ignore the stations that are closed – or would be closed by the time you got to them! – in its calculations.
  • Your gas tank could even query services that track gas prices and show you the cheapest option that is on your way and that you can reach with the fuel in your tank.

Let’s take this back to the original question.  Telling potential investors how much gas you have in your tank isn’t all that informative.  Even telling them how many miles you can drive on that gas misses the point.  What potential investors really want to know is where you can get to before your tank runs dry.  So if you really want to wow them, here’s how you answer:

“We have $$ in the bank which will last us ## months, pay for x, y, & x, and take us to milestones a, b, & c.”

That’s what I want to hear.  Agree, disagree, pitch me on a smart gas tank venture – I’m all ears.

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About Andrew Ackerman

Andrew is recovering consultant turned serial entrepreneur, startup mentor and angel investor. He is the Managing Director at Dreamit, currently in charge of the Edtech accelerator program. Andrew is also a contributing writer to Fortune, AlleyWatch, The 74 Million, et. al. Andrew has founded two companies and has a keen appreciation for how hard it is to build a successful startup, even under the best of circumstances. He speaks Hebrew fluently as well as some Spanish, French, Japanese and JavaScript.

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