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I nominate “platform” for overused tech word of 2010. Yeah, I whined about this a few months ago in my post Your Platform Is Not In My Space.
I hear the word “platform” in over 50% of the short pitches I get. A friend of mine who is working on a new startup that isn’t even funded yet (and he’s grinding on the financing) described his goal of “creating a platform for a-phrase-that-only-73-early-adopters-will-userstand.) Entrepreneurs everywhere describe the first release of their MVP (“minimum viable product” – for those of you that haven’t intersected with the Lean Startup movement) app as a “platform”. The first three pages of a google search on “platform” are 33% tech, 33% politics, and 34% other. At least Google image search is more accurate, for example:
Ahem – give me a fucking break. Yup – I get it – it’s great to be a platform. I give you Facebook and Twitter as examples. But real platforms are few and far between. And creating “a platform” is not necessarily the right first move for your brand new consumer facing application. Why don’t you start by being super useful to a bunch of consumers first.
I know I’ve been overusing the word “platform” lately – it’s like a weird brain infection that is hard to diagnose and then eliminate. I’ve found it – now it’s time to remove it from my vocabulary.
Over the past two weeks I’ve heard the word “contrarian” more times than I can count. Suddenly, to become a successful investor in any segment (angel, venture capital, public markets, debt markets) you have to be contrarian. The assertion that a “contrarian strategy” always wins seems to be in the air.
When I ask people what they mean by “contrarian”, I’m amazed at how often they define it as either as “actively investing” or “sitting on the sidelines.” Specifically, “there are too many people investing at this point – I’m going to take a contrarian approach and sit on the sidelines for a while.”
To me, contrarian means doing the opposite of everyone else. If everyone is buying, you are selling. If everyone is selling, you are buying. Our friends at Webster even give us an example:
“As an investor, he’s a contrarian, preferring to buy stocks when most people are selling.”
Now, to be fair, you can make the case that “not buying” when everyone else is buying is contrarian. But I have never thought about it that way. And, as the word contrarian enters the mainstream vernacular around entrepreneur / angel / VC land, I think it’s important to ponder what it really means, especially if the majority suddenly adopt a “contrarian strategy” which, by definition, ceases to be contrarian.
Do you remember the amazingly hilarious “We’re All Individuals” segment from Monty Python’s Life of Brian?
In 2009, the word that finally got on my nerves was “space”, as in “our product is in the X space” or “the space we are going after is X.” It seems like the word “space” managed to find its way into every paragraph.
The annoying word of 2010 appears to be “platform”, as in “we are going to be a platform for X” or “our platform for X will solve the following problems.”
In my little corner of the world, the word “platform” is a lot more precious. There are very few platforms. You aren’t a platform until you have a zillion users (well, at least 100 million). Until then, feel free to call yourself a “junior platform” or an “aspiring platform.” Or, call yourself an “application”, which is what you most likely are.
I definitely make this mistake myself (e.g. “Company Y is a platform for X”) and I’ve been self-censoring lately and now saying “Company Y aspires to be a platform for X”).
Ok, I feel better now.
I’m been fighting through one of the worst colds I’ve ever had. I started feeling crummy on Friday, spent the entire weekend in bed, suffered through work on Monday, and had the entire experience crest with the worst headache and one of the longest pain filed and sleepless night ever. I finally am feeling better today, but man that was a nasty 27 headed viral monster.
I’ve never been a fan of handshakes. While I get the formality of it, I hate germs and – in a parallel universe – would probably spend all my time with my extremities wrapped in saran wrap. I’ve had a running joke of it with some friends, including Paul Kedrosky, who also thinks handshakes are stupid.
Today, Paul and I decided to start a movement – “No More Handshakes in ‘09"’. Fist bumps, elbow bumps, and hugs are fine – just no handshakes. Join us!
I do this every year just because it’s a pet peeve of mine. It’s now officially 2009 – time to update all those copyright notices if you haven’t turned the ending year into a variable. What’s the point of these stupid copyright notices on the bottom of every web page anyway?
Kudos to Matt Blumberg at Return Path for (a) reminding me about this and (b) having his copyright notices automated. Google – not so automated. Microsoft – not so automated (although Live appears to be). Yahoo – automated! Ask – not so automated. Ebay – not so automated. IBM – not so copyrighted! I could go on but it’s time to go have lunch with my partners.