Don't pitch

April 01, 2010

Last week I read this article on ReadWriteWeb that advises a startup to "Give It to Them Straight: Avoid "Pitching" to Your Board." The article explains how it can be bad to exaggerate your product and cover up problems that you are experiencing in development:

"VCs hear bad news all the time — it is part of the startup process and part of the VC job description," says Hirshland. "Any VC worth his or her salt should respond to bad news, provided it is shared in a timely fashion, by helping the entrepreneur figure out the best way to respond rather than dwelling on what went wrong."

To which I must respond: no shit! We all hear bad news all the time. Get is straight, a "pitch" is a lie plus hubris. None of us want to be lied to. Would it be that hard to just tell everyone on your project the truth about what your software does and how the development process is going?

It's incredible to me that we have created a world in which this has to be pointed out: don't delude your closest supporters. It's indicative of the fact that developer culture has become the domain of hucksters and charlatans. There is a deeply manipulative and delusional culture at work here, and let's be clear there is absolutely no room for it in nonprofit and humanitarian technology.

Read the language around a tech conference like TechCrunch Disrupt, where hundreds of startups come to fetishize themselves as combatants on a "startup battlefield." From their own words, it sounds like an joyous exercise in self-delusion: "It'll be a little bit like pitching a top VC, except it will be done live on stage in front of thousands."

Is it so crazy to imagine a conference where we are all honest about what our software actually does, and they types of frustrating issues that we are facing in development? Then we could join hands and sing songs, I guess.

It sounds unrealistic because, you get pitched everywhere. In software development the art of lying has become pervasive. Developers pitch their funders, their users, and anyone who will listen. And really developers are just pitching themselves, delusional about what their products are capable of doing.