I recently saw “Margin Call”.  The movie could have been a lot better, but I did take away one important reminder that’s applicable to all the startups I see pitching on KickoffLabs pages, at events, etc.

The running joke is that as the information moves higher, the bigwigs understand less and less what the company actually does, until we get to the CEO, who tells the lead character:

“Explain it to me as if I were a small child, or a golden retriever.”

This is such a great reminder to anyone explaining anything about which you are an expert… and if you are building a business around an idea… you are an expert compared to EVERYONE you meet when it comes to that idea.  Sure, you’ll bump into people that know more than you on occasion, but you won’t lose any credibility by starting your pitch at the lowest common denominator.

Drop all the tech buzzwords, drop the jargon, drop things that make you sound smart.  Stay clear, concise, & simple. Focus on a problem and the results of using your solution.  It’s an important distinction. When you are talking to your dog he or she doesn’t care HOW it gets the treat… it just cares that you give it the treat.

Josh Ledgard – Co-Founder KickoffLabs

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2 comments on “How to explain your startup to a dog

  • Josh, as any other entrepreneur would, I certainly appreciate posts like these esp. when they’re concise. Don’t know about others but I’m always looking for ‘pearls of wisdom’ surrounding launching and sustaining my company.

    That notwithstanding, I do have to disagree with the last comment. Although neither of us can really say this with any certainty or authority but I think that dogs do learn and know “how” they get the treat. Which is the primary way dogs are trained; a reward at the end of every job well done. I am not sure they really catch on to the concept of ‘a rule of thumb’ and that is to – ‘obey’ and you’ll be rewarded. So they learn each task which they know is followed by a treat or a stern warning with the owner/trainer shaking their finger vigorously at them in a loud tone that is not followed by a pat on the head, petting of any kind or a treat.

    But, like I said, I’m not a dog trainer nor an expert on canine psych, so can’t say it with any authority but that’s just my observation/analysis. It’s also possible that what you meant to really say was that “they don’t care whatever they need to do to get the treat as long as they get the treat” in which case it would mean that if the ‘problem’ and the ‘solution’ is simply, clearly but adequately addressed then the user will not care what they will need to do/learn as long as your solution really solves their problem. Hmm

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