Tech startups crippled by business speak

words-580x527Tech startups are being crippled by the fact that their owners make themselves incomprehensible by using business speak.

Words like “Content, Platforms, cloud, Synergy, End-to-end, Solutions, and “Paradigm” sound technical and informed. But they mean nothing, and they make it impossible for ordinary people to understand what a company actually does.

Quartz  had fun going around  the  RISE conference and trying to get start-up leaders to explain their business.

It reached the conclusion while start-ups are trying to sound smart and attract investors, or to simply dress up an otherwise boring product, those that rely too much on jargon end up alienating the users they want to attract.

One example was Kalpesh Rathod who made an app called Cubes. But he can’t explain what it does without using the buzzwords.

“We visually organize your email and cloud-based content for ultra fast access. It’s visual storytelling with any type of content.”

When pressed Rathod could not explain what this actually meant. What was cloud-based content and how could it tell stories?

After sitting down with Rathod  it turned out that Cubes was an app that pinpoints anything that’s not text in your email or Dropbox accounts, takes snapshots of those things, and then bundles them together in a standalone app. If you get a lot of photo attachments via email they will be easier to find.

Michael Bergmann’s Indy Cloud is another one who suffered from the Jargon problem.  He called his app a “know-how and synergy platform” apparently unware that this meant nothing and he might as well have called it a badger scrubber – although that might have actually meant something.

“A synergy platform means that many small businesses are on one platform and together they create value for them, because we can bundle their demand and they get better deals” he says apparently unaware that he has just opened his mouth and is letting the wind blow his tongue around.

Actually Indy Cloud is a web app that’s an Excel alternative for small businesses. It forces users to follow a specific procedure for inputting category names and data, so that tweaking one spreadsheet leads to a corresponding tweak in another. So if you change an address to 123 Main Street in one spreadsheet, and all other spreadsheets with the same name will update accordingly.

Apparently Bergmann was not happy describing Indy Cloud as a Microsoft Excel alternative, however. Indy Cloud “has a database solution.” It’s also “reactive.” Excel is neither of these things.

Startups resort to jargon in order to sound more interesting than they actually are, Casey Lau, a startup event organizer in Hong Kong.

“The word “cloud” sounds very expansive and grand. But if you just said ‘We’re on the internet,’ which is what ‘cloud’ usually means, then it doesn’t sound as exciting,” Lau said.

However how many are losing the opportunity for investment cash because people don’t actually know what they are making. Some technology magazines ban the use of jargon business speak terms because they don’t have any meaning. So these start-ups are not getting their quotes used because they are 80 percent bollocks.