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Today’s interview on Do More Faster is Greg Gottesman, a managing director at Madrona Venture Group in Seattle. Greg was instrumental in bring TechStars to Seattle and has been a great friend and co-investor over the years. Among other things, Greg teaches at University of Washington and recently built a class around Do More Faster.
Greg’s chapter is on the characteristics that define an innovative startup culture. He’s also part of a firm that just celebrated its 15th anniversary with a fun roast reflecting on their successes, failures, and missed deals.
Next up in the StockTwits.TV Do More Faster Interview series is Ben Huh, the founder/CEO of Pet Holdings, better known as the guys who do ICanHasCheezburger, Fail Blog, and about 50 other crazy and hilarious sites.
I was introduced to Ben several years ago by my friend Micah Baldwin (Graphic.ly CEO, TechStars Mentor, contributor to Do More Faster, and hilarious dude in his own right.) I care deeply about community and have learned a lot about it from both Micah and Ben. Ben was pretty serious sounding in this interview, so if you need a good end of the work week office laugh, one follows. But – listen to the interview with Ben – you’ll learn something.
see more Monday Through Friday
Our friend Howard Lindzon (StockTwits CEO, TechStars Mentor and Investor) did an interview series with a number of the contributors to our book Do More Faster. I’ll post one each day or so over the next week. They are all short (15 minutes or so). Howard starts the series with an interview with me and David Cohen (TechStars CEO and co-author with me of Do More Faster.)
This interview happens via Skype when David and I were at my house in Keystone (where we came up with the idea for the book) during the recent TechStars Managing Director retreat. In NY starting tomorrow is the annual TechStars Alumni Retreat (gang – sorry I’ll miss y’all) followed by TechStars for a Day for folks that have applied to the New York program.
If you are an entrepreneur I hope this stuff inspires and informs you. Or, in the worst case, occasionally amuses you (if you listen carefully around minute 9, you’ll learn about my “fuck me once” rule along with why I think work-life balance is important.) Enjoy.
If you are in Boulder, come to my community hours today between 1 and 5 at the Boulder Bookstore on Pearl Street. David Cohen (TechStars CEO and co-author of Do More Faster) and I will be hanging out all afternoon, talking to whoever shows up about anything that is on your mind, and signing copies of Do More Faster until the Boulder Bookstore runs out of them.
As readers of this blog likely know, I do monthly community hours (also known as random days) where I’ll meet with anyone for 15 minutes about anything they want to discuss. Usually they are scheduled – today’s is an open free-for-all.
Come hang out, buy a book, and talk about entrepreneurship with me and David.
As part of our Do More Faster book tour, we’ve been having a pitch session each day called “Pitch More Faster.” During the hour, we hear four pitches that are five minute each and give direct feedback / suggestions on the pitch itself (not the content or the business, but the pitch.)
In my experience, most people suck at the five minute pitch. It’s really hard to do well. There are lots of variants of suckage, including cramming a 30 minute pitch into 5 minutes, doing a 5 minute pitch for the first time (and having no comfort with the material), or talking at 732 word per minute and being impossible to follow.
We’ve done Pitch More Faster in about ten cities now and it’s been really interesting. I think we’ve been helpful and have found that when everyone is in the room (e.g. all four companies that are presenting) the conversation becomes even more impactful and robust as by the fourth presentation everyone is weighing in with feedback.
I’ve noticed one consistent thing in virtually every presentation. It’s what I call the “read vs. listen” problem. Most of the presentations have slides with lots of words on them. Since the presentation is only five minutes long, the stuff being said is important. Most presenters know not to simply read their slides, so they say things that are not necessarily on the slides. And that’s the essence of the problem.
I learned a long time ago (probably junior high school) that I learn by reading, not by listening. In college, I was a “go to the minimum number of lectures that I can get away with but read everything” guy. As an adult, I’d much rather read and write email that talk on the phone. When someone wants to explain something to me, I’d much rather they just email me. And when I want to really understand something, I need to sit quietly and read it (or about it).
Furthermore, when you talk to me, if you don’t keep my attention, or if I don’t purposely focus on you, I drift quickly. If you’ve ever interacted with me, you may have noticed the look in my eyes when I drift. It’s sort of the equivalent of my eyes rolling up into my head. It’s definitely a me problem, not a you problem – it’s just hard for me to process a lot of verbal information for a continuous time.
Now, map this to the five minute pitch context. I can concentrate on you for five minutes. But if there are words on the screen, I go straight to the words and start reading them. And then I can’t hear anything you are saying. If there are a lot of words, I spend all my time on it trying to read everything and absorb it. And I hear nothing.
It turns out there are a lot of people like me. Many of them don’t realize it. When you are presenting, you probably have a mix of “readers” and “listeners” in the audience. In a five minute pitch, you want me to listen the entire time since your goal is to get me to engage and want to spend more time with you. So the words on the slides are a distraction.
I’ve long been a fan of minimalist slides – a few words and/or a picture to use as a guide for whatever is going on. I never completely understood why – now I know. If I close my eyes the next time you are presenting to me, it’s because I’m trying to concentrate, not because I’m falling asleep.