Startup CEOs and Investors: Bruce Brandes

All I Needed to Know to Disrupt Healthcare I Learned from “Seinfeld”: Part V – Yada Yada Yada 
By Bruce Brandes

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Most every company talks about their elevator pitch, which is intended to be a brief summation of the business to intrigue one to want to learn more. My question is this: exactly how long are the elevator rides some people are taking? More broadly, in any sort of business interaction, how to you best balance brevity vs. meaty detail?

The Webster’s definition of the phrase “yada yada” is "boring or empty talk often used interjectionally, especially in recounting words regarded as too dull or predictable to be worth repeating." Anyone still recovering from the HIMSS conference can likely recall many conversations where yada yada would have been a very welcomed interjection.

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Our old friend George Costanza once dated a woman who often filled in her stories with the expression yada-yada, leaving out much of the detail. Jerry praised her for being so succinct (like dating USA Today) but not knowing the full picture drove George crazy. So opens the debate: is yada yada good, or is yada yada bad?

As discussed in an earlier column, most pitches are too long and generic. A little yada yada to help you explain your company in 60 seconds or less is very good. In calculating how to consolidate your elevator pitch, reread the Webster’s definition above and be sure to yada yada overused, now almost meaningless buzzwords like “patient engagement,” “big data analytics,” or “telemedicine.”

Instead, focus on concisely describing why your company exists, what problem you solve, and how you deliver that solution in a way that is clearly superior or more simple than the masses. Even 60 seconds might seem like a long elevator ride to your audience if you do not make a compelling initial impression in the first 15. Without the yada yada, you are not getting a first meeting.

Better yet, if your solution is as vastly unique and compelling as you may perceive, perhaps its simplicity speaks for itself. Did Apple need to yada yada when it introduced the iPad?  In his book “Insanely Simple,” Ken Segal describes the cultural foundation which led to Apple’s development of transformational products so simple and obvious that a two-year-old or a 90-year-old could just intuitively understand them. 

For real game-changing solutions, an unspoken yada yada is implicit. For example, in philanthropy, the Human Fund’s mission statement – “money for people” – enticed Mr. Krueger with its understated stupidity.

However, the buyers of and investors in healthcare technology solutions are remiss to not press for the substantive details and validation of claims glossed over by the yada yada. How many HIStalk readers been burned by extrapolating assumptions from high-level vendor assertions only to later recognize in the fine print that some important information was omitted by a yada yada?

  • Q: Where does your system get all the data you are showing in your demo?
  • A: Once you sign the contract … yada yada yada … we integrate seamlessly with your EMR.

  • Q: How do you achieve your revenue projection of growing 20x in two years?
  • A: We had meetings with people at both HCA and Ascension about doing pilots … yada yada yada …. we forecast 300 hospitals next year.

Let’s try to yada yada some of the memorable events in healthcare IT history.

  • We acquired five more companies which will be integrated by next quarter … yada yada yada … we beat our forecasted revenue numbers. (every HBOC quarterly earnings call in the 1990s)
  • We closed on our acquisition of HBOC … yada yada yada … our market cap dropped $9 billion today. (McKesson 1999)
  • We are putting out an RFP to evaluate vendors and purchase a new enterprise electronic medical records system … yada yada yada … we bought Epic. (any academic medical center in the past 10 years)
  • We are making great progress on our successful Epic rollout … yada yada yada … we are announcing major budget cuts to protect our bond rating. (that same academic medical center three years later)

I contend that yada yada is both good and bad. Mastery of this notion leads to knowing when to use the figurative yada yada to establish appropriate interest, rapport, and trust. It is equally important to know how and when to effectively press for critical information which the symbolic phrase may be concealing. 

Bruce Brandes is managing director at Martin Ventures, serves on the board of advisors at AirStrip and Valence Health, and is entrepreneur in residence at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business.


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