Startups and entrepreneurship were a big topic last year with Steve Case’s bus tour and the rise of shows like Shark Tank and West Texas Investor’s Club. A week into 2016, its time to address some cultural resolutions we’d like to see the startup community consider for the coming year:
Buzzword elimination. Okay, maybe you missed the Forbes article, or dozens of other columns detailing the decline of the King’s English in the business community. Let’s just say this: If you use the words, bleeding edge, rockstar, ninja, game-changer, bandwidth (unless your company deals with signal bandwidth), stealth, pivot, holy grail, crushing it, killing it, nimble strategy, or any derivative of the word “disrupt,” you might want to work on expanding your vocabulary a bit. Look, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional use, but the rife overuse indicates a lack of maturity as well as substance.
Embrace yourself, not the faux image. Everyone knows what people who work at startups (especially tech startups) look like. The startup scene has its own cultural vibe. They’re rebels of course, so they have to look the part. They have beards – long ones. They’ve got tats. They wear t-shirts to work and usually leave the socks at home… I’m not against any of that, and frankly there are plenty of days I don’t shave or wear socks. And if that’s who you are, that’s who you are. But the “I’m a rebel so I have to look like a rebel,” thing borders on the ridiculous at times. It’s kind of like the mid-40s white-collar worker who dresses up in his leathers on the weekend and takes his Harley down to the biker bar. It’s obvious, fake and he’s likely to get his ass kicked.
(True story – a friend of mine was a software engineer at a startup. He totally fit the profile above. Then he got offered a pretty good paying job somewhere else and the next time I looked at his LinkedIn profile photo, his beard was neatly trimmed and he had on a shirt and tie. Hell, I didn’t know he had one, much less knew how to tie it. But he went from America’s Most Wanted to America’s Most Respectable – and was/is still the same guy.)
Dwindling of pitch contests. Yes, we made a call for these to decrease recently – and not surprisingly some of the main sponsors of these things didn’t care for our suggestion. We made our case for why the volume needs to be toned down and stand by it. It’s a simple discussion of quality over quantity. Business is business, not reality TV.
So those are our resolution suggestions for the startup community. It’s a no-brainer, but your image – how you talk, dress, carry yourself – carries over to your company. And its something investors pay close attention to.
And most of those investors are wearing socks.