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Four elements of a winning pitch: the Magic of Google’s 12-Word Pitch That Fueled Its Success

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On this month 25 years ago, Stanford students Sergey Brin and Larry Page put their studies on hold, rented a garage, and founded a startup with a funny name–Google.

Although the search engine they created was extraordinarily complicated, their pitch was remarkably simple. It was so straightforward that it persuaded Sequoia Capital’s Michael Moritz to invest $12.5 million. The money helped fuel Google’s astonishing growth and made Moritz a billionaire.

Moritz tells me the Google pitch carries a valuable lesson for all founders and entrepreneurs who pitch ideas:

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Be able to pitch your idea in one sentence
The Google guys pitched their idea in one sentence of just 12 words. They told Moritz that Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

In one sentence, they made it clear that their ambitious vision for Google Search was to make sense of the waves of information moving online.

To this day, Moritz believes that if a founder or aspiring entrepreneur cannot explain their idea in one sentence, then it’s too complicated.

“Most listeners–including investors–don’t concentrate,” Moritz told me. “They tune out or they have short memories. So, burning the message into their skulls is a rare art. In order to do it, your idea must be memorable, clear, and vivid.”

Let’s take a closer look at the rhetorical elements of Google’s one-sentence pitch to understand why it persuaded Moritz to consider an investment.

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1. Clear and understandable
“A great founder strips things down to their essence,” says Moritz.

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Google’s mission statement is stripped down, clear, and understandable because it’s free of jargon and written in the active voice (subject-verb-object). “Google” is the subject, “organize” is the verb, and “the world’s information” is the object.

Sentences written in the active voice are easy to understand.

2. Universal appeal
In one sentence, the Google guys tapped into a fundamental human need: the universal desire to make sense of information for the purpose of acquiring knowledge.

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Moritz says that simplicity is a key ingredient of a great pitch, and so is the ability to make it emotional. People don’t care about your pitch or idea until it connects with them on an emotional level.

Appeal to a universal desire and you’ll win people over.

3. Solve a problem
An effective presentation raises a problem and solves it. It’s much harder to do so in one sentence, which is another reason the Google pitch works so well.

By offering a tool to organize information and to make it useful and accessible, the pitch clearly implies that people are frustrated with existing search solutions at the time. The value proposition is obvious and clearly stated.

4. Big, bold, and aspirational
Google’s elevator pitch is aspirational because it suggests that democratizing access will make the world a better place. Your pitch doesn’t necessarily have to change the world but, like Apple’s Steve Jobs enjoyed saying, make sure it makes “a dent in the universe.”

All of these elements help make the Google pitch memorable and they’ll help you craft a short, memorable pitch that will grab your audience’s attention. After all, you can have the best idea in the world, but if your listener can’t understand and remember it, you’ll fail to be as successful as you should be.

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This article was originally published in the original United States edition of Inc. or on inc.com

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