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Home > Blog > When PowerPoints eat your demo...OR: When ambition is just too much
Out of Our Minds
Friday, November 19, 2004 8:36 AM
When PowerPoints eat your demo...OR: When ambition is just too much
David Weinberger on Culture

There's this start-up. (Sorry, but I can't get too specific because I'm a consultant to its main competitor.) It's getting some good PR because it's got a hot demo in a hot space. Great. But the PowerPoints betray the demo and make you wonder what the heck is going through their minds.

Let's pretend the product is a new word processor. (It's not.) The demo shows off incredible features you'd love to have. It corrects words before you mistype them. It has a Logic Checker that not only finds the flaws in your reasoning but suggests useful alternatives. It lets you type in English and have it show up in French. It's just way cool.

But then they give you the slide show. It turns out that being the world's greatest word processor isn't enough for this company. No, the demo you just saw is really only a small part of their grand design. Their word processor is really just a platform for developing semantic e-commerce enterprise global paradigms that will revolutionize the way you work, how your enterprise makes money, and the role of management. In short, the PowerPoints ratchet the product up to the point where using it requires a religious conversion.

It makes you wonder what it's like to work at a place where ambition demeans the value of craft.


Tom - 11/23/2004 3:42:45 PM
Doc, exactly. Imagine if back in the beginning of the IBM PC Microsoft had said we want to not only be the operating system on over 90% of desktop computers, but we also want to bethe operating system in the computer server room. And we also want to be the word processor/spreadsheet/graphics program on all those computers. Did we mention handheld computers?

People would either have laughed or run screaming from the room.
Doc - 11/23/2004 2:22:41 PM
My last startup - the CTO had a vision problem - too much vision :).

What we were trying to do was radical enough, but his vision of what he wanted to do scared off investors.
Liam Page - 11/21/2004 7:50:52 AM
The funny thing is, the little things are the most subversive -- they find their way into our lives without us noticing, and suddenly we're unable to live without them. And they're a heck of a lot easier to sell, too. But I think Tom's right -- it can be easy to doubt yourself, to start thinking that you're to only one who sees it quite that way, and to feel you have to oversell to get people on board. Truth is, people don't really like the big changes. At least, not at first. But if you win them with the widget, you've got an inside chance at something more substantial.
Tom - 11/19/2004 1:10:19 PM
Perhaps, since it's just a word processor kind of product, they felt no one would be interested in it unless they hyped it as part of some revolutionary strategy. That sort of thinking reminds me of Pyra Labs, which was working on the 'next big thing' but in the meantime came up with Blogger.


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