Brad Feld

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Abolish Traction, Space, and Thrilling

Apr 13, 2005

Fred – I’ll see you and raise you two. 

Fred Wilson had a delightful post on the word “traction” today as part of his VC Cliche of the Week series.  In it, Fred suggests that he’d like to hear the word traction used less in our business.  I’ll go a step further.  I’ll never mention the word traction again.  It has become so overused as to mean nothing (since it’s used to refer to everything and is a placeholder for “we are making progress, whatever the hell progress is.”)

There are two other words that I am abolishing from my business vocabulary effectively immediately.  If you catch me using any of them, please call me on it (feel free to throw something at me, spit on me, or just break out laughing.)

The first is “space.”  Like traction, the word space is used constantly by VCs and entrepreneurs.  This space, that space, we play in this space, we’re going after that space, we’re looking for white space (why doesn’t anyone ever look for purple space?)  Humans used to use words / phrases like market, business, customer segment, product opportunity (and plenty that are actually specific).  Die you generic words.  I’m banishing space to … space.

“Thrilling” is my last annoying as shit word of the day.  I can’t read a press release anymore (including a bunch from my own companies) without seeing how thrilled someone is about something.  Matt Blumberg sent me the draft of the Return Path / IronPort / Bonded Sender press release and voila – there is was – Matt was thrilled.  Matt’s a smart dude so when I told him he should limit being thrilled to his time with his wife Mariquita he got it and appropriately modified the press release.

My grandpa Jack used to have a blast massacring words to make his point.  He was never “thrilled” – he was “trilled”, and my uncle Charlie and I were “typhoons” instead of “tycoons.”  I’ll take it step further – I’ll simply delete them from my vocabulary.