PPT vs Working Code : Lessons for BigCos & Start-ups

Fred Wilson’s post here is spot on, based on my experience as an entrepreneur.  ‘Having code’ > “Not having code’ by a country mile. 

There was a great saying that rock-star coders I knew at MSFT would use at times: “The code doesn’t lie.”  Reinforces the point, and in my view makes Fred’s assertion stronger.

Having worked now as an entrepreneur for a few months after a decade at a big co, what’s weird to me is the relative usage and implied value of ‘good decks’ at big co’s, relative to trying to get a company started, where it’s all about the code. 

In the end, most meetings you have in BigCo (all due respect to my fellow softies out there) are less ‘bet the company’ occurrences.  They’re updates, discussions, whatever in the vastly safe environment of being all in the same company, often with people you’ve worked with over a long period of time. 

With a start-up, meetings are literally life-and-death.  And what’s more, you’re often meeting people whom you don’t have years of experience with.  (I’m meeting folks basically for the first or second times.)

And yet, I’ve had many meetings in start-up land where we don’t even look at the PPT.  At MSFT, conversely, all anyone cared about was what was literally printed on the slides.

What’s a BigCo to do: I think two things–both apply to start-ups too 🙂

1) Enforce Guy K’s 10/20/30 rule.  If you’re going to use PPT, follow Guy’s rules.

2) Always ‘bring a demo.’  That could be an interactive ad (for the mktg people), a playback of support calls (customer support), or good old fashioned coding (for the engineers) 

A VC: Powerpoint vs Working Code?

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