Ok, as part of my New Year’s goals I want to endeavor to force businesses I work with to think in more simple terms. What do I mean by that?
I’ve been on this rant before and it mainly shows up when viewing a company website. They give you the ‘nerd speak’ overview of the company that is couched in obtuse language and surrounded by fluff the marketing department added which leaves you shaking your head and leaving the offending website.
I am referring today to the businesses that are doing a presentation to a group of investors or someone writing a whitepaper on their industry or company. It sounds like a snap but companies don’t make their pitch easy, they foul it up with divergent theories and a way of expressing their idea that tries to make the company sound innovative or mysterious.
That’s probably unfair to some but if it is that uncommon how can I run into this problem twice in one week? It is a real problem if I can’t understand the investment opportunity.
I was reading a whitepaper on crypto currencies and blockchain this week that would drive a normal person insane trying to understand the complexities these 15 experts were trying to outline in a 24-page document. I read it thoroughly three times and couldn’t figure out their product or implementation plan. These guys are Ph.D.’s with a gazillion years of experience between them but they obviously have lived and worked in a university setting too long because what they were saying needed was way over my head. I needed to be far more simplistic.
I’m not saying that investors are simpletons, however, I seem to have a knack for breaking things down to a more simplistic explanation and I know that my colleagues are on the same page with me – simple is better!
Let me explain without infringing on my NDA. Imagine a whitepaper that does a complete benefit analysis of the blockchain phenomenon in very high-level terms with a working explanation of the exact way the blockchain moves through the virtual world protecting our assets. Now add a new crypto currency they developed. Of course, they are nerd scientists, so again, they explain the crypto currency in a scientific manner that makes you wish you hadn’t got up that morning. Now add the product to the mix, let’s call is it a ‘widget’, a world-class product that is ready and waiting for the implementation of both blockchain and virtual currency.
It should be a simple matter of connecting the dots but it’s a shambles. They explained the hard bits that no one wants to really understand which detracts from the product they hope to raise money from investors. The simple explanation they needed to explain is that the widget is very cool but needs a makeover. In order to facilitate purchases they are offering a new virtual coin that gives the buyer a discount if they use the coin to buy the widget. Oh, and by the way, the virtual coin and the purchase are protected by blockchain. Explained that way I might invest!
They tried to explain the processes and developmental issues to the point that the product was lost in the milieu. The details can come later.
Another prospective client came into the office and again covered by an NDA I’ll explain it in other terms. They came to us with the idea for a production facility in the millions of dollars. The product the facility produced was ‘tecnobabblehydrazinium’. They were very pleased to have the hour allotted to explain the process, the uniqueness of it and the scalable market they had found. Halfway through the presentation I asked them what ‘tecnobabblehydrazinium’ was and how come I had never heard of this amazing product.
They were very patient and explained it again but added something to the pitch that made the light go off in my head – oil! The main product was oil with a very lucrative by-product ‘tecnobabblehydrazinium’. The pitch, the documents and the presenters drifted over the minor point that oil production was at the heart of the deal. Again simply telling us it was an oil production plant with a cool by-product could have made life easier.
Is it our nature to try to make things more difficult? I spoke to a writer for the government at a networking event. I was fascinated when she told me being a writer for the government was often difficult because she was told to write at a Grade 6 English level so it would be easily understood by everyone.
It sounded nuts until I read somewhere that Bill Gates and especially Steve Jobs always gave speeches and presentations at the same level so they would be easily understood. Next time I give a speech I am going to have fun looking at my audience and imagining that they are all 10-12 years old.
It makes sense when you consider that writers, sales people, investment pitchers are all trying to educate someone. From my perspective, many of the pitchers fail to educate me on anything. It’s good to have deductive reasoning as a skill.
What should be my course of action when I don’t understand a presentation? I don’t want to be rude, like Kevin O’Leary on Shark Tank but also value my time and that of my colleagues. Unfortunately, when presenters do poorly because of the lack of an easy explanation for a technical investment we all lose. If the business opportunity sounds too complicated how am I going to sell it to investors. If it is that innovative dumb it down so the listener or reader can say – ahhh, what a great idea!
I think I will have a sign made that says “Get to the Point and Eliminate the Fluff’ and put it on my boardroom table for next week’s presentations. It can’t hurt!