The key to the business pitch – that can’t ever be said

I’ve noticed a trend in the business pitch (yes, I’m a Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den addict, er, enthusiast) wherein people never use the most obvious analogy.

In Hollywood, or at least in movies about Hollywood, which I’m sure are 100% accurate portrayals of the culture, there’s this thing where movies are pitched as a combination or variation of previous films – there’s a good (and brief) summary of the pitch formula on everything2 (which has a great justification for short pitches in general: “forty million people were tuning in to watch TV movies on any given night, based on one or two sentences that were written in TV Guide that boiled down the entire plot.”)

In the business pitch, it seems like comparing yourself to anything that’s ever been done before is certain death, or at least I don’t see it on the TV shows.  Maybe there’s a copyright rule that prevents it, and that’s why, for example, TeamBuy couldn’t say “we’re making a Groupon clone” when they were on Dragon’s Den (or it’s possible that GroupOn wasn’t big enough to be on the radar at the time of shooting.)

I think it goes beyond business pitch shows though – GameFly lets you rent video games by mail, and you can keep them as long as you want, and when you mail one back you get another one from your list.  Yes, it’s Netflix for video games.  But they never say that in their ads, including the long descriptions of the service given out in the Revision 3 show sponsor announcements.

I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but it looks like, for business, that you have to look original but at the same time do everything you can to implant the other brand’s name in your potential investor or customer’s head.  Nobody wants to support a copycat, but everyone wants what the big guy’s got.





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