Salient Virtues: I Gotta Have More Cowbell !
In my previous blog post, I discussed the common fatal flaws in business plan or startup competition pitches. This essay focuses on the reverse concern – do you have any salient virtues?
To illustrate the point, I encourage you to watch the SNL classic skit featuring Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell “More Cowbell” – also see the Wikipedia entry. The main character in the skit played by Walken, a fictional music producer named Bruce Dickinson, asks the heavy metal band, Blue Oyster Cult to studio play and record their marquee song, “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. The beginning of the song features a cowbell as its defining feature or sound. Of course, the skit exaggerates the prominence of the cowbell in the song, hardly a heavy metal staple, and makes fun of its use in the first place and the distracting effect it has on the rest of the band members. To everyone’s surprise, and the humor in the skit, instead of toning down the cowbell, Bruce asks for even more of the same – “really explore the studio space this time”, he tells the cowbell player, Gene Frenkle, played by the hilarious Will Ferrell.
When you write and present your business idea, you must treat it like playing your marquee song and thus feature all its key elements or instruments. However, you should take a page from Will Ferrell and highlight your defining characteristic or cowbell early in the song and make sure everyone hears it loud and clear – really explore your pitch venue space! Your respective cowbell could be the once in a lifetime opportunity to create or reshape a market, your proven insight of what the customer wants, the serendipitous application of your intellectual property, or even your creative and elegant business model. Bang it, and bang it loud!
In past business plan or startup competitions that I’ve judged, I have seen (or heard, if you will) teams succeed or fail based on their ability to play their particular cowbells – professors/judges/investors will be drinking from a fire hose – they need to remember one defining characteristic in your business pitches to mark you as a standout. Worse yet, if they only faintly hear your cowbell and indeed appreciate it as the defining characteristic of your plan, they may actually ding you points because you didn’t play it with enough gusto.
As the Christopher Walken in the ‘venturing’ studio, I put my pants on just like the rest of you’all, one leg at a time. Except when my pants are on, I make gold pitches (see the skit). So guess what… “I gotta fever… and the only prescription is more cowbell!”