“Elevator Pitch” and her sisters

Crisply saying what you’re up to is a real art form, and, like any art, there are more bad examples than good.

One of my pet peeves is the “Uber of <mumble>” tag line.

“What do you guys do?”

“Oh, we’re the Uber of musical instruments.”

OK.  What does that mean?  It has to be explained anyhow.  It’s almost never obvious.  And so the tag line fails in its mission, which is to crisply say what you’re up to.

In fact, cutesy metaphors like this almost never work.

In this case, if you said, instead, “we let owners lend out their musical instruments to paying users, like Uber,” you would accomplish much more with fewer net words, and, by the way, you’d say something about your business model and your value proposition.

Tag lines, elevator pitches, one-liners, one-minute summaries, they are invitations to confuse instead of summarize.


I think people hate elevator pitches because they make the power assymetry between the pitch-or and the pitch-ee obvious.

Imagine the situation: you’re in the elevator with your “prospect”, and you have a very short amount of time to get his/her interest for your project.  It’s sell or die.  You are the Pursuer, and they are the Pursued.  It’s an invitation to a Righteous Indignation Party, and, as we know, crappy humor and indignation are closely related.


But put yourself in the recipient’s shoes for a moment.  Someone you know nothing about is about to make a demand on you: for your time, for your attention; for your investment, perhaps.  If the first words out of their mouths are, “think of it like Uber for musical instruments,” the encounter will not go well.

If the first words, instead, are “I’m trying to raise money for a business idea letting owners lend out their musical instruments for money.  Are you interested?” it’s, as they say, a horse of a different color.

Spend the time to boil down your statement to something crisp, not something cute.

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