How To Write A Vision And Mission Statement For Startups

How To Write A Vision And Mission Statement For Startups

Vision and mission statements are a way of defining your company’s purpose, goals, and brand. Unlike “hard,” tangible value drivers (e.g., your coding team and financial assets) or “soft” drivers (e.g., a marketing strategy and management team), these statements are an intangible driver of value for any business. These intangibles are difficult to quantify and often seem to be driven by feeling rather than anything substantiated.

Taking the time to create compelling vision and mission statements is crucial, because they can add more value to your business than you might initially realize. First, the exercise of drafting vision and mission statements forces you to distill why your business exists, what your business does, and the first impression you will make on your all-important first customers. 

Equally important, however, is how pivotal having a compelling and inspiring vision statement and mission statement can be in securing early-stage investors and attracting the best talent to work for you.

What is a vision statement?

A vision statement explains why a company exists, what its future goals are, and the change it’s aiming to create in the world. It’s the company’s single dream or north star that unifies and inspires every employee—and ideally other stakeholders, too. The statement should be aspirational. Though a company may never fully achieve its vision, it is committed to doing everything it can to work towards it every day. Everything a company does—both large and small—should contribute to its vision.

For example, the vision statement of iconic tech brand, Sony, is: “To fill the world with emotion, through the power of creativity.” This closely aligns with what we know about Sony—a company that makes products that put aesthetics and quality at the forefront of its work, making it more about premium design than raw tech specs alone.

What is a mission statement?

A mission statement is an equally important statement that is distinct from the vision statement. A mission statement is an articulation of what you do or deliver as a business every day. Though effective mission statements end up looking simple, you’ll be investing a lot of time and effort into achieving that simplicity. By the time you have crafted yours, it will be a short, punchy sentence that explains to the person reading it three things about your company:

1) What the company does.

2) How the company does that.

3) Who (the customers) does that for.

TED’s mission statement is one of our favorites. It’s all of two words: “Spread ideas.” Within that, you can instantly understand the company’s mission, what it does (facilitate the spreading of ideas), how it does that (being a facilitator) and who it’s for (people that want to experience new ideas). 

Most mission statements are longer than two words, but TED’s has an elegant simplicity that offers inspiration as you start to consider drafting one for your startup.

TED Mission Statement

There are important distinctions between vision statements and mission statements. Here are qualities that set them apart:

Mission and vision statement comparison

What is the value of a mission and vision statement—and why does my early-stage company need one?

You might think vision and mission statements are an unnecessary indulgence in the early days of your startup journey. For one thing, as a founder you almost certainly have an unspoken set of goals and drivers behind what you’re doing. That’s generally an extension of a founder’s personal mission and vision, because their startup is often an extension of themselves. And, because a founder is so overwhelmingly the driving energy behind the business, the informal “founder’s vision” can seem like it’s all that’s needed at that startup stage.

However, a founder will need two things to achieve their vision: other people that want to be part of it (i.e., employees, partners, and investors) and customers. If the mission and vision of the startup is locked in the founder’s head, and is a vague “this is what the founder believes in and wants to achieve,” then it’s going to be difficult to get others on board. 

Remember that at this stage you don’t have tangible proof of your business—you haven’t got the MVP or product yet. Investors and other potential stakeholders are going to be relying on clear language to understand your company’s direction and the problems that it will be solving to determine whether it’s worth getting involved.

Some entrepreneurs also struggle to articulate their complex, game-changing ideas succinctly, and so properly defining vision and mission statements is an exercise of cohesion. It takes the jumble of ideas flowing through a founder’s mind and turns them into something understandable, inspiring, and motivating to key audiences.

How to create a mission and vision statement for your startup

Before you put a marker to the whiteboard and start your brainstorming process, the first thing you should do is read as many mission and vision statements as you can. They’re public-facing and easy to find, so choose the companies that inspire you the most, as well as your competitors and successful startups.

What you’ll quickly discover is there aren’t too many fixed rules about drafting these fundamental statements—what matters most is that they are genuine reflections of your own business.  

Three Things To Keep In Mind


Mission and vision statements might be like the TED mission statement, just a couple of words long, or they can be longer. Best practice suggests that they should be one line, but there are good mission statements that are a couple of paragraphs long, too. Here’s Coca Cola’s vision statement, as an example of a longer—but equally impactful—one: 

“Our vision is to craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better-shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities, and our planet.” 

Rigidity of messaging

As the business adjusts according to trends, new technologies, growth, and opportunities, what it’s looking to achieve and its goals will naturally shift in kind. For this reason, it’s important that the mission and vision statements are written in broad, long-term language, rather than in immediate-term specifics, to avoid rewriting them on a regular basis. Rewriting these foundational statements regularly signals to the outside world indecision or even instability.

Inspiration and memorability

Your organization’s vision and mission statements are an opportunity to make a big impression. Be sure that they’re easy to recite, and that they’ll rally people around your cause. Slack’s mission statement, for example, is “Make work-life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.” That’s an easy message to get behind.

With those guidelines in place, there are several steps that will help you write both your vision and mission statements:

Step 1: Talk to the initial people involved in the company

At the startup stage, you have a close-knit group of two or three co-founders. This is the perfect opportunity to formalize exactly what attracted each person to the company. You want to know what are they looking to achieve on a personal and professional level with this, and why it means something to them. A good first step is to actively interview one another. You’ll find by asking questions like these, the seeds of your mission and vision statements will start to sprout:

  • Why are we in business? 
  • Speaking in the plainest English possible, what does the business do?
  • Why is our work so essential right now? 
  • What unique needs does the business meet for customers?
  • What inspired you to found the company?
  • What differentiates us from our competitors?
  • What will our customers love about us? What will our trademarks be?
  • What underlying philosophies and values have shaped the business so far?
  • What impact do we want to have on the world around us?
  • How will you define success for the company beyond profitability and market leadership?

You can also try talking to family and friends. Explain your idea to them in detail, then ask them what it is about that idea that catches their attention/makes them want to know more. They might not be customers or investors, but they’ll give you an excellent sense of what might catch the customer and/or investor’s attention from your idea and what specific language resonates.

Make sure you talk to as many people as are available to you at this stage of your business. Search their collective answers for similarities that are the building blocks of your mission and vision statements.

Another helpful tactic is to record your conversations and upload them to a tool like or Whisper for auto-transcription. In reviewing those transcripts you’ll often notice common threads that you overlooked within each conversation.

Step 2: Take the common themes and turn them into paragraphs

Ideas can naturally be fragmented, incomplete, and disjointed. The second step in crafting your vision and mission statements is to turn ideas into coherent sentences.

At this stage it’s okay to be detailed. You want to capture the full nuance and depth of each idea, so that you have the full context of why it captures who you are, how it’s inspirational, and where your company is heading.

You should have a paragraph reflecting the ideas behind your future vision statement and another paragraph reflecting your future mission statement.

Step 3: Now, distill it down into the vision and mission statements

This is the most challenging and potentially time-consuming stage of the process. Take your red pen and eliminate as much as you can from those previous paragraphs. Remove single words and entire sentences alike, until you arrive at the core of each paragraph. 

It should be not more than three sentences long. If it’s longer, it can be either cut down further or re-written so it’s shorter. If you’re stuck, take a break and come back to look at it with fresh eyes. You will be able to cut it down further.

Your ultimate goal is to whittle the content down to a maximum of 100 characters each for your vision statement and mission statement..

This is not an overnight exercise and it will involve a lot of heartfelt introspection about the purpose and motivations behind your business. Dedicate some serious time to this—give yourself a day in a room with a computer that isn’t connected to the Internet for distraction-free focus. The distillation process in particular will be time consuming, and likely require many (many) reads through the content to understand what words and sentences can be cut or which words best capture the idea and sentiment you want to convey. It’s normal and healthy for there to be vigorous debate among co-founders about these foundational statements. This is tremendously helpful to align you as a leadership team and—quite literally—put you all on the same page to steer the company’s future growth.

Step 4: Examine your draft vision and mission statements side by side.

Your vision statement and mission statement need to work in harmony with each other. Once you have your draft statements ready, compare them both closely and consider whether they are sufficiently distinct. Are there areas of overlap? Have you repeated any key words in each statement, and if so, was that deliberate? Remember that vision and mission statements need to be complementary but should never be repetitive. To review, your vision is your company’s north star—what you are aspiring to be and the change you want to make in the world—while your mission statement is what you are doing right now. By fulfilling your mission day in and day out, you will achieve your vision. If both statements are too similar, you have more refining to do.

Some great examples of a mission statement, a vision statement, and the differences between them

The LinkedIn Story

LinkedIn has an excellent mission and vision statement. It distills the complexity of being a company that helps people do business better into two very distinct and clear statements—an excellent example to consider when writing your own.

LinkedIn’s vision statement is: “Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” That’s a noble and suitably long-term goal that a company can work towards. The use of “every” makes the statement truly aspirational—while it’s unlikely LinkedIn will achieve this, they signal their intent, which is what matters most.

Its mission statement, meanwhile, is to “connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” This gives us a better understanding of how specifically the company will go about achieving its vision (by making “connecting people” its mission).

How Netflix Inspired A Media Revolution

Netflix, meanwhile, offers another excellent example of a succinct mission statement: 

“To entertain the world.” 

It’s a simple and elegant mission statement that leaves a lot of room for flexibility. For example, Netflix started out delivering DVDs to people via mail. Then it took advantage of improved Internet speeds across the globe to focus on streaming that material on-demand. Then it saw the opportunity to invest in film production and make its own original content. Its most recent step, to get into game production and distribution, has nothing to do with film at all, and yet still falls within its mission statement (games are entertaining!).

Netflix’s vision statement is “to continue being one of the leading firms of the Internet entertainment era.” Here, too, the recent pivot to games matches the statement, given that games add a new potential demographic and audience to the company and assist it to continue growing.

This also highlights one final significant difference between the mission statement and vision statement: the mission statement is always public facing. This is what you want the public to think about your company. The vision statement, meanwhile, might be public, but it’s a critical driving force internally—this is what you want to motivate your people and drive every idea and decision within the organization. The two are linked and everything you do within the business should “speak” to both statements, but the audience that they’re predominantly for will be different.

Three common mistakes with mission statements and vision statements

Crafting a concise, clear, and memorable vision statement and mission statement is difficult, and a major creative challenge early in the startup cycle. Avoid these three common mistakes to develop compelling statements:

1) The statements don’t inspire.

While one of the main goals of the mission statement is to highlight what your business does, if it reads like a fact sheet line item, it’s not going to be particularly effective. You can only inspire with evocative language and unexpected word choices based on soulful introspection, not by regurgitating dry, textbook-like information. Your vision statement in particular needs to capture the imagination of every employee who joins your organization. A vision statement that falls flat won’t motivate and excite employees in their everyday work.

2) They lack personality and humanity.

The most effective vision statements and mission statements convey a sense of an organization’s values—not only by capturing its raison d'être, but also its strategic priorities and personality. Again, word choice matters hugely. You have an opportunity to overturn expectations and set yourself apart from competitors through the language you select. Consider outdoor apparel company Patagonia’s mission statement—”We’re in business to save our home planet”—that is a very clear expression of its values and environment-first philosophy. 

Your vision and mission also hand you an opportunity to project a sense of humanity—particularly through your vision statement. Why does your work matter to people, potentially around the world? How will it improve the quality of their lives? By weaving these elements into your statements, you generate an impression of considering and caring for the role your business plays in people’s lives.

In both cases, it’s essential for your statements to be genuine. Mimicking other organization’s vision or mission, or feigning a personality never works—audiences will see right through it when their experience does not live up to the promise.

3) They use buzzwords and jargon.

This is particularly relevant to buzzword-heavy sectors like IT. Cut all jargon from your vision and mission. Use plain English at all times. These statements need to be completely accessible and comprehensible from anyone who reads them, regardless of their familiarity with the sector or products that you’re looking to sell.

Create a mission and vision that clarifies and inspires

As your vision statement and mission statement are two of the first formal things you will create as you establish your startup, they can be enormously powerful ways to chart your course—consolidating everything you want to achieve while giving your entire organization direction and purpose. 

The best vision and mission statements will help to focus your business, and provide your customers a next-level experience by articulating the promise you are committed to fulfilling as a company.

Vice President, Head of Content + Brand

Kimberley is a published author with 20+ yrs of experience focusing on communications, content, and brand strategy at companies such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and the Federal Reserve. She earned her MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA in English and Government from Dartmouth College.

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