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How a Transformational Business Finetuned Its Message

Refining Financial Innovation: A Deep Dive into Pipe’s Evolutionary Journey in Messaging and Value Proposition

Otto Pohl

Sep 27, 2022

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Pipe is an incredible fintech with an excellent website. Let’s take a close at how it has refined its messaging over the approximately 3 years of its existence. The evolution is instructive.

The revolutionary nature of Pipe is that it has unlocked an entirely new funding structure for SaaS businesses. Until Pipe, the only options were venture capital, which is dilutive both in ownership and control, or debt, which comes with covenants and downside risk. But there is an entire universe of financing that exists for other businesses, built around anything that has a predictable cash flow. Mortgages, consumer debt, rent payments—they can all form the basis of asset backed securities that are valuable commodities with generally deep and liquid markets. And to an accountant, SaaS subscriptions look an awful lot like mortgage payments. (If you want to dive down the rabbit hole, check out this post from February 2020 about cash flow financing for startups, published just weeks before Pipe launched.)

While Pipe’s founders were clearly locked in on the vision, it took a while to tell their story crisply. At launch, the headline on their website was “Start turning your MRR into ARR,” touting that “Pipe gives you control over your cash flow.” Good points, but slightly off-message and a bit jargony.

In one of the lower bullets, they wrote that it was “100% non-dillutive [sp] for you,” but they were clearly positioning their product first and foremost around the idea that you didn’t have to discount your annual subscription to encourage people to buy that and pay you upfront—instead, you could sign a customer up at a monthly rate and then sell off the full year of that expected cash flow. Lower down on their page they touted their hosted checkout service and the range of subscriptions they would purchase. (Check out the full site from Feb 2020.)

By July of 2020 they had updated their site but the message was still structured around “Instant access to your annual cash flow,” as the headline explained. The subhead now contained the key phrase “Scale your business without dilution or debt.” The core value prop was coming into focus but not quite razor-sharp yet. Full site here

In February of 2021 they had another new site design but were still touting “Get paid by the year, charge by the month,” in the headline, and in the subhead that you should “stop pushing your customers into discounted annual subscriptions.” The important upgrade is that they now started testing out a new phrase, “Your subscriptions are an asset, trade them like one.”

Lower down the messaging was really starting to get tight, even if they occasionally included sentence fragments like “As if all of your customers converted to annual plans overnight.”

By this point, the company had set up its trading platform, and their messaging begins to reflect this. The headline they use to introduce it is the relatively weak “So what exactly is trading subscriptions?” but the subhead makes up for it by talking about how companies “sell the recurring revenue from a cohort of customers to investors for dilution-free capital.” The graphic alongside that illustrates it very well. Towards the bottom of the page, the company finally nails their revolutionary value prop: “Never take on debt or dilution again.” 

That’s the messaging their current site is built on. The headline: “Grow on your terms,” with the subhead “Pipe transforms recurring revenue into up-front capital for growth without dilution or restrictive debt.” 

The home page is now a cascade of tightly-honed messages. After leading with the non-dilution and non-restrictive nature of the financing they enable, they systematically nail each subsidiary value prop: get upfront capital; no need to offer discounts or force additional customer decisions; the fact that “Pipe makes recurring revenue streams tradable for their annual value,” which echoes and builds on the top headline; it addresses the natural question a potential customer would have about churn; and how easy it is to implement. It closes with the message they found in early 2021: Never take on debt or dilution again. Even their tagline finally found its groove: from the 2021 “Turn your MRR into ARR” into today’s “Grow on Your Terms.”

When you watch the Olympics, it can be easy to think that those athletic feats are easy—after all, everyone on the TV seems to be able to do them effortlessly. But looking behind the scenes makes it clear that even Olympic achievers needed a lot of practice and incremental improvement to get where they are today. 

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Otto Pohl is a communications consultant who helps startups tell their story better. He works with deep tech, health tech, and climate tech leaders looking to create profound impact with customers, partners, and investors. He has taught entrepreneurial storytelling at USC Annenberg and at accelerators across the country.

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