A Three-Second Elevator Pitch?

In a recent post on startupcfo.com Mark MacLeod notes that some of the principals at Sequoia Capital saw that start ups that were able to explain themselves in a sentence or less were the most likely to succeed.

I thoroughly believe that this is a good point, and that distilling what you do down its essence is extremely hard, probably the hardest job in marketing, especially for technology companies. And, perhaps, especially for technology start-ups.

Part of the problem is the tendency of technology companies to want to explain all of their coolness right up front, so that their entire message is delivered in the first sentence, on the top of the homepage, as early in whatever communication they are using as possible.

Many people in many companies seem to be scared that if they don’t immediately communicate every feature and benefit, that they’ll miss the next enormous opportunity because someone didn’t hear something critical.

But the truth is that if you don’t hook your audience in the first 10 seconds, then any list of features is going to be noise that goes by as the audience starts scanning their phones for the latest urgent email.

I had a very unfortunate reminder of this recently when the CEO of a pretty good startup gave me a webex demo. Unfortunately, he started in the middle–going into long lists of features without any context–and he lost me about 38 seconds into the presentation.

It’s hard work paring your story down to 3-10 seconds, which is why some companies pay millions for a name or a tagline. You have to be willing to pare and pare and pare some more. Get it down to the essence of why what you do is important. It’s not a list of features, it’s something that will tickle the emotional and intellectual parts of the brain.

But the payoff is tremendous; audiences that are actually interested in what you have to say.

Tron Returns to the Big Screen

After the impressive success of James Cameron’s Avatar, a pioneer of computer-generated imagery (CGI) returns to the big screen. Tron Legacy, a sequel to the 1982 cult classic Tron, is due to be released this December. The first fans to see the trailer were appropriately at the Comic-Con and are already buzzing.

Anyone who has taken a class in 3D animation has likely been lectured about the 1982 break through in CGI known as Tron. Those who haven’t will hopefully be looking it up on YouTube. It is a great way to see just how far computer graphics has come, especially when integrated with actors.

The story was ahead of its time too. Some may see it as an early Matrix, where the main character is being held captive in a digital world after hacking into a large corporation’s master control program. Instead of the coolest part of the film being a character dodging bullets in slow motion though, it’s a Lightbike racing scene. In the original film, the computer animation would only allow the bikes to turn on right angles, so it looked like something from an Atari game. Nevertheless, the scene became a legend.

So how will the new film pay homage to the original’s iconic visuals? Will IMAX 3D finally make it a blockbuster film? Was it the 1982 technology that didn’t quite satisfy the viewer’s expectations or was it the story? What does CGI need to do to be fully persuasive and appreciated by both the animation gurus and the general public?

If done well, it could be a successful sequel like the latest Star Trek film where computer graphics dazzle and delight us while the characters and story remain true to the culture and emotion of its fans. If done poorly, it could be another flop but with cooler graphics. Either way, it will remain a pioneer of computer graphics in film.

View the 2010 trailer

View the 1982 trailer

YouTube Testing HTML5

Google has expanded its adoption of HTML5 by releasing a beta version of YouTube using the new yet unapproved code (Feb 2010). However, the only browsers that support the code are Google’s Chrome, IE with a Chrome frame, and you guessed it if you read our earlier article, Apple’s Safari.

The opt-in page http://www.youtube.com/html5 states that these are the only browsers that support both the HTML5 video tag and the h.264 video codec. In previous posts, the h.264 codec (form of video compression) was described as an Apple codec that competed with the Flash video compressor. Before the iPhone was released, Apple worked with YouTube to convert most of their Flash videos to h.264 so the iPhone could display the videos. Today, I am sure the YouTube HTML5 beta is trying to achieve the same thing but this time for the sake of the iPad.

So, where is Adobe’s voice in all of this? Only a few weeks ago, they released an invitation to a webcast of the announcement of Creative Suite 5 (CS5). That same day, Steve Jobs and Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt were seen in a very public area having a coffee on the sidewalk of a cafe in Palo Alto. Bystanders took photos and reported hearing Jobs say “They’re going to see it all eventually so who cares how they get it.” Many suspect this was a PR stunt, but no one seems to know what for. Web content was more than likely the topic of conversation, but was it about HTML5 adoption?

In the meantime, Apple is presenting a gallery of iPad friendly websites that have Flash content but use HTML5 instead of the Flash plugin to display it. Even though this was always an issue on the iPhone, it is only now that the public is really complaining about it. Designers and programmers are catching on and major tech publishers like O’Reilly are getting ready to release instructional books on the subject (June 2010).

The iPad is giving us a push to move forward with HTML5, but will Adobe respond? Designers need the tools to keep up with the challenges tech and new devices present. This includes enabling designers, Flash developers, and web developers to work together using similar tools and languages to create an experience that all end users can connect with. It isn’t Flash or the iPad that is the problem, it is the issue of downloading plugins. HTML5 will solve this, but designers need the ‘go’ signal. Hopefully, that will happen next Monday.