Canvas for Value Proposition Presentation

I know, I know. “Not another f*ing canvas…”

But hear me out. 

I just finished reading (actually listening to the Audible version while running) Stephen Denning’s book The Agile of Agile – link at the bottom of this post. 

One of the many things I liked was Denning’s sharing of Silicon Valley icon SRI international’s canvas for defining a value proposition. 

There are four components to SRI’s model that are summarized in the mnemonic NABC

  • Need
  • Approach
  • Benefits per costs
  • Competition

“They are the fundamentals,” says SRI’s Curt Carlson. “It doesn’t make sense to write up a big report until you can explain [things] in simple language to a knowledgeable person. Once those fundamentals are in place, the full business plan is much more efficiently developed.”

So before you launch into a 9-panel BMC canvas, or, gasp, a 20 page BRD, consider the four cells of NABC.

Sketch it out, pitch it via dynamic teaming / self-selection and see if you get any champions to join you.

Keep in mind, you don’t need to “Get it right the first time.” NABC is meant to be an iterative approach.

And do not be afraid to “bailout” if it turns out there’s really not enough value, not enough champions, after your initial “Holy crap – this shower idea I had is a game-changer!!!!” euphoria has passed.

NABC Value Proposition Presentation Canvas

Value Proposition “Hook”

  • What’s the headline/tweet?


  • Who’s spearheading this?
  • Who will be the early adopters?


  • Identify the need (Focus on customer’s need, not the firm’s need)
  • How acute is this need? (e.g., Lifesaver, painkiller, or supplement)
  • How can you quantify the need?
  • Is this relevant to one person, a few people, or an entire demographic?
  • Identify not only the customer/end-user, but who else you might go after – “noncustomers”?


  • How will this solve this particular need
  • What’s the secret sauce?
  • Bias for action
  • Build on existing strengths?
  • Scaling?

Benefits per Costs

  • What improvement will this solution make in the life of the customer?
  • How much of a difference? Quantify, even if only by proxy.
  • Even if “intangible” find a way to quantify, for example:
    • Increasing the number of hours of their free time that they would spend with family and friends or on their hobbies, 
    • The number of words they have to use to communicate a particular idea, 
    • The amount of effort expended (in footsteps or calories, for instance) to get to a certain place, 
    • The number of minutes one could be continuously immersed and engaged in an entertaining or other valuable experience. 
  • It may even be some combination or collection of multiple benefits, each of which has its own quantification cell.


  • What are others doing or could be doing to address the same need?
  • How might the customer find alternative ways of fulfilling the need?
    • If you came up with the idea of sticky tape as a way to fix notices to doors, don’t only think of glue as your competitor. Think of thumbtacks, chalk, email
  • Enumerating the pros and cons of each approach quantitatively.
  • Are the alternatives cheaper or more expensive to make, use, etc.?
  • Does our approach create a barrier of entry to keep others from eating our lunch?

An Example NABC VP^2

Here’s an example, can you guess the ultimate product?


  • In the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL was a computer personal assistant. We have developed a friendly version of HAL for your mobile phone.


  • Mobile access to services is a multibillion-dollar opportunity growing at 30 percent per year. 
  • Keyword search is time-consuming and ineffective, particularly on mobile devices. 
  • Each “click” to find an application drops out 20 percent of users: After three to five clicks, most services and applications are effectively “lost.”


  • We have developed a computer personal assistant, analogous to HAL. 
  • Users in English (and eventually other languages) can find and deliver information and services via speech with their mobile device. 
  • HAL’s beachhead market is access to basic services for business travelers
  • Eventually, it will address the much larger market for all consumers. 
  • The business model is reference fees from service providers. 
  • A prototype is developed and the first commercial product will be delivered within twelve months for $5 million. 
  • HAL has an outstanding team: CEO [Dag] Kittlaus, former head of Motorola’s X-Team, and CTO [Adam] Cheyer, former CTO of the $100 million CALO project for DARPA.

Benefits per Costs

  • Free app to users. 
  • Satisfies user’s needs for basic services and completes the transactions: “Find the status of United 278,” or “Get a hotel room for me tonight.” 
  • 10X speed advantage.
  • Service providers, like hotels and restaurants, get additional customers for modest charges (~$10 plus). 
  • A multibillion-dollar global opportunity with powerful network effects. 
  • HAL learns from the user, increasing accuracy over time (e.g., a preference for Marriott hotels).


  • None. This is the world’s first true computer personal assistant with a scalable business model. 
  • Replaces the computer mouse and keyword search. 
  • 2X to 10X better interface compared to mobile Google and Bing. 
  • Strong IP position: the result of years of SRI AI research with well over $100 million invested.

If you guessed Siri, you got it!

The connection to HAL was dropped along the way, and the voice assistant was released as a stand-alone app for iOS in February 2010.  The app was then acquired by Apple two months later. And “Siri” was integrated into the iPhone 4S at its release October 2011. Siri has since become an integral part of Apple’s mobile as well as laptop line.

Go Ahead: Tell a Good Story

Use the NABC approach to sketch out a shared vision. 

Create the bones of a good story.

Variations on the Hook

The Hook could be a simple tweetable phrase. Or you could use one of my favorite powerful presentation devices the “Ig Nobel 24/7 Lecture“:

The approach explains your pitch twice:

  • First, a complete description in 24 seconds
  • Then, a clear summary that anyone (even your great Aunt Edith) can understand in 7 words

ProdPad has a nice format you could experiment with for your 24 seconds:

  • For (target audience)
  • Who (statement of need)
  • The (product name) is a (product category)
  • That (key benefits, the reason for audience to buy/want/use)
  • Unlike (primary competitive alternative(s))
  • Our product (statement of primary differentiation)

If you can pitch for idea in 24/7, then you are ready to find your champions!

Then collaborate to test your hypothesis against reality.



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