Thursday, March 26, 2015

What is the best length for a pitch?


Winston Churchill famously quipped, "A good speech should be like a woman's skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest." 

Sir Richard Branson recently channeled Churchill on Twitter and met with the ire of feminists railing against #everydaysexism. Among the retweets, was an amusing one comparing speeches to male genitalia, pointing out that if they are too long they are a pain in the ass. 

Having a PhraseMates pitch scheduled for later that week, I polished up this pearl of wisdom and prepared to join the good fight against sexism. My version went like this, "A pitch should be like a penis. Long enough to satisfy curiosity, but short enough so as to not become a pain in the ass."

Being from the US, I consulted my lawyer before the event. He advised me to transfer all assets to my wife and kids as a precautionary measure. Thankfully, one of my best mates in Sydney reminded me that Australians love a good laugh and encouraged me to give it a go. I decided to take her advice. 

Reaction was quite good. After a few seconds of awkward silence, there was a welcome round of laughter. I didn't have to worry about keeping people's attention after that. The blokes in the audience generally thought it was a hoot. One woman thanked me for the presentation from a safe distance of about a meter. 

I didn't receive any offers of financing but one person invited me to a casting call for a film called "Tales from Down-Under". Not a bad days work, I reckon.

PS For those looking for a serious discussion on the matter, I suggest the following articles.

The Perfect Length of a Presentation, Media Training
Author Susan Weinschenk points out that the terrific TED talks are usually 20 minutes long. “These same presentations stretched out to an hour might not be quite so brilliant.”

New Research Reveals Optimal Presentation Length, Presentation Transformations
When it comes to delivering presentations, there is an optimal presentation length—and according to research from Maureen Murphy at the University of North Texas, it’s 20 minutes.


Monday, March 16, 2015

What is the best title for a startup founder?


In the early days of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg printed business cards with the title "I'm CEO, Bitch." To any self respecting entrepreneur, the title of Chief Executive Officer smacks of old school hierarchy. I hold my nose every time I see it on my business card. I try to tone it down with Founder & CEO, but a startup with a CEO? "Bitch please" (Angie Tempura). 

A startup with a CEO? Bitch please.
Tweet: A Startup with a CEO? Bitch Please. Best Titles for Startup Founders. @marcbolh http://bit.ly/1IDtgnk

My first business cards at Ascendo had no title and I used several humorous titles to describe myself. Then a friend told me I was shooting myself in the foot. "People want to know if they are talking to the boss, head honcho, el capitan." So I added CEO to the next batch of cards and it made some things easier, like getting meetings with other CEOs. But I still dislike the term Chief Executive Officer. I assume it means a person whose main job is to speak with unearned confidence.

And so I've been looking for a good title for some time. I like Chief Facilitator but people might think I'm in charge of maintenance. I like the word Designer in a title, which could be used to mean designing the company's strategy, processes, etc., but designer makes people think of Jon Ivy and I don't want that comparison (btw, Ascendo is looking for a UX designer).

I recently pitched PhraseMates at Fishburners co-working space and used the title "Storyteller". That choice was inspired by Bernadette Jiwa's great book, The Fortune Cookie Principal. Shout out to Stuart Hall for recommending it. I do believe that a person leading a company needs to tell the story on a regular basis, but using storyteller as your title sounds a bit dodgy.

My favorite title at the current time is Lead Sherpa. The person running a company needs to lead the team to a destination, like a sherpa climbing mount Everest. They need to be in front, choose the best path, and be the first to bear the pain of a bad decision. They should carry some heavy things and lighten the load for others by being a facilitator. And finally, they need to keep everybody, including the customers, focused on getting to the summit.

I've started rolling out this title on the PhraseMates web siteI'll still be dropping the CEO title whenever it helps, but in my mind, I'm the Lead Sherpa on a fantastic journey to enhance people's lives with great apps.

What interesting titles have you heard for the founder of a startup?

Monday, March 9, 2015

To blog or not.


For years, I've thought that people who engage frequently in social media have either too much time or too much ego. It turns out I was wrong. Many of them have very little time.

Well, I've decided to join the fray. After several tweets, posts and pokes, I am starting a personal blog and this is my first entry. I see at least two benefits to blogging;
- reminding myself regularly of what a thoughtful person I am,
- decreasing the burden on my poor wife who has to listen to every hair-brained idea that passes through my head.

And so that burden passes on to you. I hope you will find some of my entries interesting, amusing and helpful. 

Who am I kidding, nobody's gonna read this. I'm going to bed.