What's a vision statement for startup founders?

Meow Technologies, Inc.

Meow Technologies, Inc.

A vision statement is a critical piece of defining a startup's identity and aspirations. It captures the company's dreams and goals for the future in an inspirational way that rallies employees, customers, and stakeholders. Although often confused with mission statements, a vision statement serves a distinct purpose in articulating the big, hairy, audacious goals that seem just out of reach. It stretches the imagination to what could be possible for the company with hard work, creativity, and persistence.

While companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple now seem destined for success, they owe much to the ambitious vision statements that co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Jobs articulated at their inceptions. A startup's vision statement thus plays an integral role in its future growth and evolution from fledgling company to industry leader.

Steps for Writing a Vision Statement

When sitting down to compose a vision statement, resist the temptation to jump right into wordsmithing elaborate sentences and corporate jargon. Instead, use the following process to develop a vision statement that truly captures your startup's deepest ambitions.

Convene Key Stakeholders for a Brainstorm

Gather a small group of co-founders, early employees, advisors, and investors to candidly discuss the future aspirations for the company. This will elicit unfiltered ideas on the business' purpose, uniqueness, and raison d'être. Have everyone describe what success looks like in 5-10 years and the company's intended impact on customers or the world. Capture all contributions without judgment to collect raw material for the vision statement.

Distill Responses Into Common Themes

Review the ideas and responses collected during the brainstorm to identify areas of overlap and commonality. Are there similar verbs, adjectives, industries, or impacts described? Do certain company attributes like innovation, simplicity, or inventiveness shine through? Circle these key words and draft 2-3 paragraphs that incorporate the strongest themes into complete thoughts on the company's 5-10 year goals and achievements.

Synthesize Into an Inspirational Vision Statement

With the raw vision material assembled, the difficult task of honing it into a sharp, concise statement begins. For maximum impact, limit the final version to 1-2 sentences or about 100 words. Use vivid language to create a visual of the future that feels just within reach. Employ active verbs that energize people to take action and bring this vision to reality. Keep refining until you have an inspirational tagline that resonates emotionally as well as intellectually.

Solicit External Feedback

Before finalizing the vision statement, test it externally with those unfamiliar with the company's inner workings. Get reactions from prospective customers, partners the company seeks to recruit, and perhaps friendly competitors. Ask what images or feelings the statement elicits and if anything about it feels off, awkward, or opaque. Use this input to further refine the language to be universally motivating beyond just the company insiders.

Examples of Successful Startup Vision Statements

Tesla

"To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy."

Tesla's vision statement uses concise language to set out an ambitious, world-changing goal that has driven the company's strategy across electric vehicles, solar panels, and battery storage.

Airbnb

"To create a world where anyone can belong anywhere"

Airbnb’s statement emphasizes democratizing travel, connection, and access – a lofty and philosophical goal that has nonetheless helped it become one of the world's most valuable hospitality brands.

PayPal

"To build the web's most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution."

PayPay's statement is more tactical in specifying how it will achieve global impact, through facilitating online payments. This focus has helped it become a top online payments processor.

Testing and Refining Your Vision Statement

An initial vision statement should not be set in stone. As the startup evolves, collect feedback from employees on whether the statement still rings true or needs updating. Conduct periodic anonymous surveys to give everyone a voice in assessing the relevance of this guiding star.

You can also review the statement whenever new strategies or product roadmaps are developed, to ensure the leadership team still sees alignment with the vision. Think of the statement as a compass - when making major decisions, check that the choice will move the company in the direction of its aspirational north star.

Over time the startup will change and so too may parts of the vision. While the statement's essence should be stable, certain phrases or points of emphasis could shift to keep pace with market dynamics or new opportunities. Don't shy away from tweaking or refining certain words and language to maintain relevance and inspiration.

Using Your Vision Statement Effectively

For maximum impact, focus on integrating the vision statement into the startup's culture and brand identity. Repeat it frequently in internal communications to provide direction and motivation. Share the statement prominently on the public website, collateral, and job postings to attract talent that connects with this future vision.

When launching new products or partnerships, reference how they support the founders' original ambitious view for the company. The vision statement should influence business decisions at all levels, from product roadmaps to marketing campaigns. By continually reinforcing and aligning efforts with the statement, you create focus and purpose that will drive exponential business growth.

Key Takeaways

In closing, writing a compelling vision statement is difficult but pays dividends in a startup's focus and progress. The most powerful statements use vivid language to capture ambitious 5-10 year goals for tackling challenging problems and bringing innovative new solutions to life. They serve as guiding stars that motivate and align employees, customers, and partners to fully embrace the startup journey ahead. With a clearly defined vision that lays out an expansive future opportunity, startup teams can weather difficult early days and growing pains. While mission statements and elevator pitches also have important roles, a well-crafted vision statement is the north star metric that gives meaning to daily work. By providing a shared vision of the future for stakeholders to rally around, startups leverage this powerful tool to make their impossible dreams into reality.


Meow Technologies is a financial technology company, not a bank or FDIC-depository insured institution. Likewise, Meow Technologies is not an investment adviser and none of the information presented herein should be relied upon as financial advice or a recommendation to make any financial decision nor should it be considered to be tax or legal advice. The information is the opinion of Meow Technologies for educational purposes and may not be suitable for all companies. Products, like the one described herein, are offered through Meow Technologies and are not advisory services which are only offered through Meow Advisory, LLC.** The FDICs deposit insurance coverage only protects against the failure of an FDIC-insured bank.**

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