What do startup pitch events and an early 90’s board game have in common?

Andrew Zallie
Jun 9, 2016 · 2 min read

Does anyone remember Taboo? It was that game where you had guess the word on your partners card without using the word itself or the 5 other words that were also on the card.

It was THE game played by all the cool kids in the early 90's. Typically played on a rainy Friday or Saturday nights with some Dominos Pizza and a 2 liter bottle of Coke.

Or was that just me?


I want to bring it back.

But this time, instead of being the game played on rainy Friday nights, I want to create a new version for investors and entrepreneurs.

Think of it as the Taboo for the startup world.

Every time a founder pitches his or her idea to an investor, the investor will pull a card and require the entrepreneur to explain their idea without using any of the listed startup jargon on the card.

Who’s with me?


I just got back from a startup conference and my head still hurts. I sat through 20 or so pitches over the past two days and my brain feels like it has been cut by a thousand swords.

I’m pretty sure to be an entrepreneur they give you a list of 50 words that you are required to use any time you speak.

It felt like Inception.

No better…Groundhogs day (that will be my last 90's reference this post.)

I don’t think it is intentional that we gravitate toward similar words and phrases to explain ideas, but I do believe it is a problem when we begin to use the same words to describe very different ideas.

Ok maybe I am being a little dramatic.

But there is little denying, jargon limits our ability to communicate effectively.

So here is something that we all need to be aware of and think about when we pitch investors, present ideas or simply communicate.

Our brain is constantly trying to do one thing and one thing only.


And to survive, our brain asks two simple questions when it processes information.

Is the information coming at me dangerous, or is it novel?

If the information presented to our brain is dangerous or abstract we classify the information as a threat and push it away.

If the information presented to our brain is not new or novel we classify the information as safe and ignore it.

Jargon, buzzwords, or whatever you want to call these words that are normal speak in the startup world are dangerous and definitely not new or novel.

I didn’t make this stuff up. I read it in a book.

But seriously, it is science.

So let’s keep it simple.

Thanks for reading! :) If you enjoyed it, hit that heart button below. Would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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Musings on innovation, technology, and design.

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