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Some thoughts on frozen toothpaste

What remains of my toothpaste, post-TSA
This is what remains of my toothpaste: 0.8 ounces. I started the day with a full-size (4.8 ounce) bottle of toothpaste, which exceeds the TSA’s limit of 3.4 ounces of liquid per container. The thought behind this regulation is that the possession of certain types of liquid in sufficient quantities can be used to make a bomb. While I am glad that someone is looking out for my wellbeing as an air traveler, a few of the security measures simply don’t make sense.
What if I froze my toothpaste? The TSA’s restriction is not on toothpaste, but on liquids. If I initiated a state change and turned my toothpaste into a solid, would it suddenly be permissible?

This doesn’t make sense.

Also, how effective are those full-body backscatter scanners? The thought is that these machines help TSA personnel quickly detect dangerous objects with increased sensitivity over other methods. I noticed the machines were only in about half the lines at the Denver Airport. Half the passengers are invasively scanned, while the rest simply pass through metal detectors.

What if someone with malicious intent simply chooses to bypass the more thorough scanner?

This doesn’t make sense.

These experiences remind me of an aspect of conversations I’ve had recently with entrepreneurs about their startups: it’s vital that your story makes sense. There are two pieces of this:
1. Actually have a logical story
2. Communicate your story clearly & concisely

In the case of the TSA, their story actually has a very simple logic (however flawed their “product” is under the surface): you want to feel safe, so our systems filter out dangerous stuff and make it safer for you to travel. ZipCar is also great: you don’t need a car, just the service of using a car when you need it. We make that process really easy, and while you pay us for that convenience, you still save money over owning or traditional car rental. Boom. Logical. Everybody wins.

Does your startup’s story make sense like this? Do you solve a human need in a clear, logical way? Or, like the toothpaste regulation, is it easy to poke holes in your logic? Mastering your story can certainly be an iterative process, but you should always be trending toward a simple, logical, easily understandable series of thoughts. This will make your conversations with users, customers, partners, and investors much more productive (and likely, more successful). And to accomplish this, your product team and marketing team (likely the same people in an early-stage startup) need to work together. As form follows function, it’s much easier to convince your audience that a hammer can do the job of driving nails than, say, convincing them that a feather could.

Lesson learned: nail your product, then tell a clear story about it.

Note 1: TSA liquid regulations http://www.tsa.gov/311/index.shtm

Note2: way to go, L3 Communications on selling those backscatter machines and apparently making loads of money by reducing people’s fears! Killer combination of powerful technology, and an even more powerful marketing campaign.

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