Abolish Traction, Space, and Thrilling

Fred – I’ll see you and raise you two. 

Fred Wilson had a delightful post on the word “traction” today as part of his VC Cliche of the Week series.  In it, Fred suggests that he’d like to hear the word traction used less in our business.  I’ll go a step further.  I’ll never mention the word traction again.  It has become so overused as to mean nothing (since it’s used to refer to everything and is a placeholder for “we are making progress, whatever the hell progress is.”)

There are two other words that I am abolishing from my business vocabulary effectively immediately.  If you catch me using any of them, please call me on it (feel free to throw something at me, spit on me, or just break out laughing.)

The first is “space.”  Like traction, the word space is used constantly by VCs and entrepreneurs.  This space, that space, we play in this space, we’re going after that space, we’re looking for white space (why doesn’t anyone ever look for purple space?)  Humans used to use words / phrases like market, business, customer segment, product opportunity (and plenty that are actually specific).  Die you generic words.  I’m banishing space to … space.

“Thrilling” is my last annoying as shit word of the day.  I can’t read a press release anymore (including a bunch from my own companies) without seeing how thrilled someone is about something.  Matt Blumberg sent me the draft of the Return Path / IronPort / Bonded Sender press release and voila – there is was – Matt was thrilled.  Matt’s a smart dude so when I told him he should limit being thrilled to his time with his wife Mariquita he got it and appropriately modified the press release.

My grandpa Jack used to have a blast massacring words to make his point.  He was never “thrilled” – he was “trilled”, and my uncle Charlie and I were “typhoons” instead of “tycoons.”  I’ll take it step further – I’ll simply delete them from my vocabulary.

  • points well taken, but the new cliche may increasingly be “vc cliche”…you and fred are starting to sound like Andy Rooney…


  • All I can say is thank you. I cringe everytime I hear someone say “space.”

  • Follow-up thought…on banishing “space”, you should also banish the term “the leader” in that space.

    This will prevent every tom, dick, and harry entrepeneur from claiming that they are “the leader” in that newly defined space.

    I can just imagine the new vernacular being “we’re the king of this new hill”.

    But that’s a banishment for another day.

  • VC “help” = Yellow Alert

    When I first started doing the VC biz, I had a basic rule: See everything, never turn down a meeting, always be polite, and never ever pick apart a presentation, just watch the person’s eyes and look for the passion. I waded through some stuff

  • More VC “help”

    Beside feedback from Brad Feld, I received a number of other emails regarding my ding on the Brad/Fred show.

  • Chris Scurto

    If we are going to be removing overused words from our vocabularies, I vote for killing Vetted and Socialize too!

  • Sorry for the late comment.

    Someone has to stick up for these poor words. (smile)

    It’s not the words… it’s how they’re used.

    For example, “thrilled” is a perfectly good word but the way it’s always used in a press release is totally wasted.

    Of course someone is happy about whatever deal is in a press release, that’s why they’re kicking out a press release in the first place.

    If you want me to actually read the damn thing, tell me something *more*… like why it’s important, etc.

    What’s that phrase? “Let’s not shoot the messenger.” It’s an operator issue.

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