Posted by Tom Borgstrom on October 26, 2009
Do you have an elevator pitch for your IP, chip or system? Don’t say “I’m an engineer – pitching is marketing’s job!” Everyone developing technology products should be able to deliver their product’s elevator pitch.
Engineers have a strong tendency to quickly dive down into the technical minutiae of their product and lose the big picture. However, this detail often overwhelms and obscures the importance of their great new technology. Whether you develop IP, chips, electronic systems or even EDA software, the ability to effectively communicate the value and relevance of your product (or the feature you are working on) will help you stay connected to what is important for the product, your company and the customer.
An elevator pitch shouldn’t be long – less than a minute. It is a concise explanation of your product that you could give to your CEO (or your customer’s CEO or a potential investor’s CEO) should you find yourself next to him or her on an elevator for a few floors.
I’ll admit that in my 20 years in the semiconductor industry I haven’t often found myself in a position to give a pitch to a CEO who happened to be standing next to me in an elevator (lots of single-story buildings in Silicon Valley, I guess). But the process of crafting an elevator pitch is valuable in itself. It is a process to help crystallize in your mind the value proposition, target user and competitive differentiation of your product or feature – all very good things for engineers and marketeers alike to know.
Here’s my favorite way to quickly put together an elevator pitch, from the technology marketing classic Crossing the Chasm (I must be a real fan of Geoffrey Moore!). Just fill in the blanks and you’ll have a concise, compelling elevator pitch for your product or feature:
- For (target customers)
- Who (statement of the need or opportunity)
- The (product name) is a (product category)
- That (statement of key benefit – that is, compelling reason to buy)
- Unlike (primary competitive alternative)
- Our product (statement of primary differentiation)
Let’s try a few examples. Suppose we are Amdahl, a maker of plug-compatible clones of IBM mainframe, and let us say that our primary competitive alternative is Hitachi Data Systems. Our elevator message might be:
For Fortune 500 companies who are looking to cut costs and who operate in data centers of IBM mainframe computers, Amdahl’s computers are plug-compatible mainframes that match or surpass the equivalent IBM computers in features and performance, at a far more attractive price. Unlike the Hitachi line of computers, our products have been backed by the same service and support organization for over 20 years.
Crossing the Chasm, p. 161
What’s your elevator pitch?
Who knows what the future will bring! After implementing neural networks in analog CMOS for my MSEE at Ohio State, I moved to Japan to do digital ASIC design using the new VHDL language and fancy logic synthesis technology from a startup called Synopsys. This introduced me to the wonderful world of EDA, where I was able to explore lots of other cool new technologies from test automation at CrossCheck to FPGA synthesis at Exemplar to code coverage at TransEDA to testbench automation and methodology at Synopsys. Twenty years flew by in the blink of an eye!
I am starting a new exploration around the bigger picture of what it takes to verify and validate increasingly complex designs on increasingly compressed schedules and budgets. This broad topic ranges from technology to economics, from embedded software development and architecture analysis to RTL and circuit design; from personal productivity to distributed team efficiency; from novel ideas to fundamental paradigm shifts; from historical perspectives to predictions of future requirements. Please join me and share your thoughts on verification!
- Tom Borgstrom