The hardest part of starting a company is spotting the opportunity. The hardest part of driving a company to success is finding the angle.

The angle is the essence of the go-to-market strategy – what you get when you ask the five whys starting with “Why should I use this company’s product?” It’s the reason your company wins in a market.

For consumer products, the angle can be design (Tumblr), user acquisition skill (Branchout), partnerships (Zynga), market timing (Plastic Jungle), community understanding (Pinterest) or key relationships like stars (Shoedazzle). For ecommerce companies, the angle can be building a market place for a particular community (etsy), market segment insight (ThredUp), inventory acquisition efficiency (Gilt) or pricing power through scale (Amazon). For software companies, the angle can be new forms of distribution (expensify), solving a new problem for companies because of new technology challenges (Datameer) or bringing new technology to market (MapR).

Underpinning every successful angle is:

  • market place / value chain understanding
  • customer needs insights
  • the right timing

The end result is the angle – a competitive advantage that wins your startup disproportionate share. The angle is the most important thing I look for in pitches.

What are some of the best angles you’ve seen?