Bullshit 101: Building for the Internet Generation

Every single day, companies churn out amazing tech products (both in software and hardware) in a bid to max out the potential of the internet. ‘Our target audience is the millennials’, says almost every marketing / product brief. In other words, we are looking to reach the people between ages 18 and 40. Yes, the term millennials is often grossly misinterpreted which is a matter for another article. The next question is, how do we reach these people?

                                                            Did I hear someone say bullshit?

Yeah, you are right. The people who fall within this category are fond of buzzwords that make them tick. I am one of these people. I won’t necessarily call us millennials but internet generation. The buzzwords speak to our aspirational attribute. You can call it wannabe. Instead of living and enjoying the moment, we reach out for the unknown, the undefined. Maybe defined. What ‘innovative’ companies defined for us as the future.

Bullshit here is the ability to say a lot without saying anything. Synonyms that come to mind will be hype and buzzwords.

In line with this categorization, there are three types of businesses, viz:

Bullshit only

Bullshit won’t close the deal for you.

Here you have a likable founder with reasonable following on Twitter (probably verified). He likely owns a MacBook from generations behind, stays in Yaba (the heart of Nigeria’s tech ecosystem), uses a fancy co-working space (co-working spaces make it easier to sell bullshit) and has an Elon Musk kind of idea (something like withdrawing money from your phone to render ATMs obsolete — free idea 😂). Chances are there is no market for this idea. Nobody wants what he’s selling but he keeps shouting 180m people in Nigeria, 97m are online yen yen yen yen. If these kinds of businesses get to raise money (they usually do), they burn through and close shop. To avoid a close-to-home example and not burn bridges, I’ll give Theranos as an example of bullshit only businesses. We all know their story.

Real shit only

Businesses here are built on the strong foundation of a solid team executing fire. The founder knows her unit economics and is operating with optimal efficiency. She probably has a cofounder who knows his grind too. They have a team of doers who have built a great product. The problem here is that they are hardly discovered. They do the real work but get low returns because they don’t know how to blow their trumpet. Most of them eventually get discovered and people blow the trumpet for them. The sweet part is that they grow steadily without pressure. This table is not so good but way better than the first. For examples, go on ProductHunt to discover amazing products you didn’t know existed. Read reviews and comments to be sure they are not BS only.

Real shit + Bullshit

Our vision has always been to create an iPhone that is entirely screen. One so immersive the device itself disappears into the experience. And so intelligent it can respond to a tap, your voice, and even a glance. With iPhone X, that vision is now a reality. Say hello to the future.

You are familiar with the company that owns the quote above. Going through the quote at first, what was on your mind? “This phone is extremely perfect and I really want it”.

Read it again. Analyze each word carefully. Do you still want the phone as badly as you did after the first read? Probably not. That’s the power of bullshit. It makes you feel like you have reached the apex of perfection, like you don’t need anything else to survive in this cruel world.

The difference between the first category businesses and the company here is that when you get the phone, it actually works — you will enjoy the feel, it has one of the best cameras, the logo of luxury is slapped on the back (all your phone cases must leave that logo visible). And you know what? You are willing to be fooled by same company to buy the next model in the coming year. Why? The product works! That is what happens when a business strategically combines real shit with bullshit.

“Do the real work and bullshit the hell out of it” — Anonymous

Final notes

You have to find the balance. The people wants to hear bullshit, give it to them. However, they will be quick to reject you if you don’t try to meet their expectations. Hence, get your acts together and deliver that stellar customer experience through your amazing product… while blowing your trumpet of course.


Written by:

Taslim Okunola (ByteMars)