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Can you explain your technology product to a 10 year old?

albert einstein technology should be simple

You have an amazing technology product. How do you sell it?

If someone has prepared for a Google interview before, you would have come across this preparatory question on Google Interview preparation forums. “Explain databases to a 10 year old”? When I was asked this question in my Google interview, I don’t remember what I had answered but what I do remember is that it’s not that simple to find simple words to explain a technology concept to a mind who’s totally alien to technology.

While the technology geeks have the brilliance and power to change the world, most are unable to pull out words (from the right brain) that would strike the right spots with the customers.

I remember my time on the Innovation & Entrepreneurship project at my college. We were a team of 5, one technology owner and the other 4 business school students. Our PhD team mate was a passionate researcher who had developed some intelligent technology with regards to public commuting. The entire project had 4 workshops. Our first workshop was a disaster because we just glorified the technology and blabbered about how amazingly it could assess and enhance one’s user experience on the bus or the tube. All of us business students were mesmerized by the technology and that’s what we presented to the judges.

Where did we go wrong? It was disastrous because we just glorified the technology. We never talked about what the technology could do to the consumer as a daily commuter? How much time does it save him? How does it fit into his schedule?

From the feedback we received, we began to realize that while technology is the backbone of the product, it plays a secondary role in front of the business customer. The primary focus should be on “What the technology can do for the consumer” addressing the business and psychological aspects rather than on how the technology works.

A lot of times when the technologists talk to non-technologists, as they begin to talk technology jargons, they start alienating most listeners (of course no one would walk on you) but the listener will tend to mentally switch off after a while under the impression that it’s out of his grasp. Some listeners, who would have an iota of inclination of what the technologist is talking about might begin to show interest by cross questioning. But to elicit cross questioning, a strong reaction is required from the listener.

In the mobile app example above, the underlying technology was Artificial Intelligence and an algorithm that determined quality of user experience. Now in this scenario, it would be more compelling if one started off by saying that using my app “saves you 10 minutes in the morning” rather than starting off by saying “It’s a mobile App that uses artificial intelligence and an algorithm …..”

Some ways the technology can be explained to non-tech people is by:

a)      Keeping a focus on business problem the technology is solving

b)      Create a story – for our mobile app, we created a story about a girl who commutes by London tube every morning and another for a late-night club goer. These two different situations showed how the mobile app could benefit both the girls at different times of the day and in different situations. All possible benefits of technology need to come out.

c)     Create a quick prototype (wherever possible) and allow the user to have a feel of what you are offering. Explaining with prototypes clarifies the point a lot. If prototype is not feasible, draw something on paper to illustrate the benefit.

Technology is only considered useful when the consumer perceives it as really solving a pressing problem. It’s a misnomer that heavy technology words create an intelligent impression and elicit interest. In the world of startups, one writes a cheque only when you can explain to him as if he’s a 10 year old.

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NIDHI KAPOOR - Nidhi is the co-founder of FounderMates. She holds an MBA in Innovation & Entrepreneurship from Imperial College, London. Prior to starting, she worked with 2 reputable startups in London. One of the startups was as young as a year old where she was the first hire while another was almost 5 years old. This has been an enriching experience for her in understanding the dynamics and needs of a startup across a broad spectrum.



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Can you explain your amazing technology product to a 10 year old?
How to explain your technology product to your customers? Technology geeks have the power to change the world through their products, but they have difficulty in explaining how their product can benefit and improve the life of the people who use them.