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Standing in Bismarck, North Dakota, I can’t tell you which way is West, but I can tell you that Bismarck is finding their true north.

Back in August, I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Bismarck. I know what you’re thinking, “Bismarck? Seriously?” Here is the thing, there is a palpable sense of possibility happening in Bismarck. For the past few years, a group of extraordinary people have been seeding the startup community here on the digital prairie.

For a week in August, I joined a group of amazing speakers to share an idea worth spreading at TEDxBismarck. While I was in town, I caught the Bismarck bug, and saw a startup community that is getting ready to burst onto the scene. …

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As an inventor or founder, you spend years envisioning, building, tearing down, rebuilding, then smoothing out the edges of your masterpiece product.

You pour blood, sweat, and tears into its creation. And eventually, it comes time to reveal it to the world — to pitch customers, create marketing strategies, to sell it. This is about showing off what you’ve created, right?


It’s about the person listening. It’s time to explain why people need your product in their lives. Not how your product came to be or how you built it.

This is the fatal flaw of founders: they speak too much about themselves.

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As an investor, I’ve sat through countless long-winded, technical pitches. Only after the founder has spent 10 minutes explaining his product, using lots of big words and acronyms, do I get in one of my own. And far too often, that word is, “What?”

The reason for my confusion? A common communicative villain: jargon.

Jargon is often seen as a shortcut to building trust — but it’s not. There are no shortcuts to building trust. Clarity is what builds trust.

There’s a reason why presidential speeches typically contain words in the grade eight to 10 range. Common language is received as more trustworthy by a general audience. Succinct, clear communication is most effective. This is supported by an NYU study that explored the impact of abstract language versus concrete language on listeners. The study concluded what presidents know: a general audience of listeners will judge overly wordy or complex language to be less trustworthy than simple, concrete speech. …

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Shouldn’t we prioritize deals over demo days?

In the beginning, there was Y Combinator.

For those that don’t know, this fabled startup accelerator grew into a household name by investing in mega-successful companies like Airbnb, Quora, and Reddit. From there, other accelerator programs soon sprung up behind it. Names like Techstars, AngelPad, and Capital Innovators have become familiar among eager startup founders, many of whom see these programs as a crucial step toward success.

But as they grew in popularity, some of the accelerator programs saw another opportunity to leverage a thirst for innovation and “startup-y-ness” from enterprises like Disney, Target, and Sony, just to name a few. …

When you look at the numbers, the average venture firm will meet face to face with at least 500 different startups in order to find the 10 they invest in every year. That’s a lot of coffee. With all these meetings, how can a startup founder increase their chances of being remembered a few days later at the weekly partner meeting?

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How can startup founders tap into the long term memory of their audience?

Many startup founders may think that their amazing traction statistics will do the trick. They are wrong.

As Maya Angelou once said: “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As a technical leader or founder, we are hard wired to deliver a pitch in a very specific way. We lay out the foundational knowledge that is needed to understand the problem space, add in a few layers of complexity, show some challenges, then reveal the ultimate solution and why it will change the world.

I call this the upside-down triangle of death.

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To be fair, this structure works really well when you are defending your thesis or in a room full of engineers that all think the same way. …

“If you want someone to take an action, influence with love. If you want someone to stop doing something, influence with fear.”

Check out the full story over at

Forget Everything You’ve Heard — Fear Doesn’t Sell

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Photo by Hammer & Tusk on Unsplash

Story is hardwired in the human brain.

As humans we developed the need to tell and listen to stories as a way for people to transfer knowledge from one person to another. By listening to the [mis-]adventures of another, we could extract a lesson. Maybe moral, maybe tactical, but the goal was to transfer a lesson to the listener within the safety net of 3rd party observation.

The human brain is wired this way.

We took the story from the fire pit to books, from books to the stage, from the stage to radio, from radio to movies & television.

It will not make the leap to virtual reality. …

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Business is a world of compromise and negotiation. Everyone comes to the table with their own goals and priorities in mind and, ideally, the final solution is one that offers something of value to everyone involved. Sometimes a negotiation is with your peers where you are working together to create an equally beneficial plan. Sometimes, you may find yourself negotiating with your boss, an exec, or a powerful client who has the ability to walk away from the table at any time. …

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High stakes presentations are a necessary part of a successful business whether you are pitching to a group of investors, selling to the CEO, presenting your company to a large crowd, etc. Failure to remain calm, composed, charismatic, and confident can lead to loss of investment or loss of good business opportunities. The most successful public speakers are able to get their audience aligned with their emotional state. This is why they are successful at what they do. Let’s explore some tips that will help you give a stellar presentation when the stakes are at their highest.

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

Rehearsal is a big factor in success. Practice makes perfect, right? In order to get ready for a high stakes presentation you need to practice your presentation under similar pressures. In order to do this you will need to practice your presentation in front of a group of people who know not only your topic, but your audience and best practices too. …


Scott Brown

Founder, Investor, Advisor. Author of (C)lean Messaging & inventor of the bacon-wrapped tot. @sbrown Check out

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