How To Pitch Your Startup Without Buzzwords or Platitudes

Avoid the lazy mistakes that come with poor pitch planning

Joe Procopio

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There’s this game I play with a couple of my friends where one of us starts describing what our company does while the other is armed with a buzzer taken from a Taboo board game.

Any time the speaker spits out a trendy business buzzword (“disruptive”), they get a single buzz. Any time the speaker leans on the crutch of a startup-related platitude (“democratize the web”), they get a double buzz.

The winner is the one who goes the longest and says the most without getting buzzed.

I know. We’re startup super nerds. In our defense, we only play this game when one of us is working on a big pitch of any kind. Be it a sales, investor, or partner pitch — basically, any meeting where the other party needs to quickly understand why they should write us a check.

And I can’t stress enough how important this game has become in terms of clarity when defining our startups.

Startup and the art of tossing a word salad

A word salad is a term for a collection of phrases that sound impressive but ultimately don’t mean anything.

For example: “Teaching Startup democratizes entrepreneurship by offering a game-changing evolution in access to the corpus of experiential knowledge of the disruptive growth cycle.”

I mean, that’s pretty good. Read it again. It means… something awesome.

That word salad does indeed mean something. It’s just so convoluted and dripping with buzzspeak and platitude-signaling that I’ve taken all the meaning out of it. So I usually go with a version of: “Teaching Startup makes entrepreneurs better by answering their questions.”

I didn’t just pretty up that basic definition with fancy words. I used words that are intended to inflate the value proposition. All those words are true, and they all have meaning.

And therein lies the problem. Tossing a word salad to describe your company does exactly the opposite of what it’s intended to do. It doesn’t inflate the value proposition, it buries the value proposition.

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com