market speak

In an ongoing series where I answer my own question, it means we’re becoming more stupid. Besides destroying the planet, we’re losing all tether to the ability to think.

I sent this to Mrs. G, but the more I read, I realized I should share here. Seattle’s The Stranger sent its reporter Paul Constant to a startup conference and well… warning: do not drink coffee as you read this.

They have come here in herds, dressed in business casual. Below their belts, the men are an ocean of khaki, broken intermittently by a cresting pair of Very Expensive Jeans. They wear their finest button-down shirts, but they make sure that those shirts are untucked, to demonstrate their willingness to let it all hang out, to think outside the confines of belted chino. The younger ones are in hoodies, their slouches cribbed thoughtfully from Jesse Eisenberg, who cribbed his slouch thoughtfully from Mark Zuckerberg. The women have it tougher. Their business casual is neither business-minded nor all that casual, a confusing melange of sundresses and sensible slacks, gossamer sweaters tossed over spaghetti straps. They totter about in chunky summer sandals that will leave bloody welts. These women and men have come together to do brutal violence to the English language, to leave the spoken and written word bloodied and victimized on a cold cement floor, wishing for the sweet relief of death.

Or at least, that’s the unintentional result. The ostensible reason they’ve gathered in Showbox SoDo, hiding away from the sunny afternoon in a dark room lousy with power strips, is to stare at a podium and a screen and lose a whole day to PowerPoint. They’re all wearing lanyards with big plastic placards dangling around their navels, their names in huge, humpty-point type and the words “Startup Riot Seattle 2012” and “#occupystartups” at the top. Ostensibly, they’re here to take part in something like an American Idol for startups, in which thirty different entrepreneurs explain their business plans to an audience of a couple hundred people. Their pitch presentations will take three minutes or less, and each pitch will be followed by three minutes of questions from a “panel” of two judges. The winners get guaranteed “face-time” with prominent venture capitalists and support from Startup Riot’s sponsoring organizations.

But, oh, my God, the terrible things these people do to words. It’s like watching some sadist work over a baby lamb with a rusty crowbar and a broken gin bottle. The names of these startups sound like the products of an aggressive brain tumor on the frontal lobe. Crowdegy, Placeling, Kouply, QuoteRobot, Appthwack, Makegood, Onthego, Nickler, Kahal, Tanzio, Taskk. They’re all whimsical and unique in exactly the same way. One of the judges works for Storenvy. The main corporate sponsor for Startup Riot is Mailchimp, along with a flock of smaller sponsors like Uber, Gist, and Twilio. I could staple the mismatched meat of syllables together all afternoon and you wouldn’t be able to tell the legitimate businesses from the illegitimate: Mehole, Kaprah, Yimmy, Blanter, Catzap, Dunzyinonezy, Simplert, Lustaminate.

It gets worse when they start talking about the ideas behind the insipid names.

What do all these words that were seemingly invented by a wizard in a kid’s picture book do? They each solve a specific problem. You ever have trouble organizing an office softball team? Don’t you hate looking at the long list of search results that happen when you type a query into google? (“The problem is…the list.”) Isn’t it awful, having an abundance of news sources? Do you have too many tasks? One pitch begins with a simple, honest mission statement: ““There’s a big problem we all face every day: Information.”