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Flack Rant: A Great Example of Bad Writing

The Sept. 9 VC Watch column on clueless people behind corporate news releases e-DUH!: How Can Smart People Be So Dumb? filled the e-mail box with a record number of responses, some of which are excerpted here with the writers' permission.

John Barbour writes: "Wouldn't it be great if the conclusions/punch line were in the summary with the effective (underlined) links to the details if necessary?"

Yes John, that would be darn close to Nirvana. In fact when I was teaching journalism at UCLA and Cornell, we called it a "lead." Apparently the tech world's desperation for PR types has filled the ranks with people who have never written a news story and have no idea that putting the relevant information first and writing it clearly is the best way to get their clients written up.

That sort of thinking would have gone a long way with an e-mailed news release (below) that VC Watch received on Oct. 1 and which was so packed with jargon and cliches, unsubstantiated superlatives, glittering generalities, meaningless buzz words and insubstantial quotes that it made it one of the best examples of bad communication that VC Watch has seen in a great long while.

In fact, it is such a profound example of a bad news release that VC Watch put aside the column it was drafting on China's recent chilling of foreign investment to take a closer look at things to be avoided. (The China column will run in a day or so). In fact, after you read the news release below, drop me a line and see if you can make a guess (in 50 words or less) about what specific problem this company solves. It seems to be a Human Resources system, but what does it DO?

The news release as received is presented below in italics, complete and uncut except for the contact name of the poor schnook who may or may not be responsible. VC Watch's comments are in [bold].

For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Rubenstein Public Relations Opus360 Corporation

Opus360 Corporation raises $40 million from Safeguard Scientifics, Cambridge Technology Ventures, Crosspoint ventures, wheatley L.P., CompuCom, Gartner Group, MSD Capital and others

Safeguard Scientifics leads consortium of leading technology and services companies in acquiring an interest in a revolutionary e-business workplace company.

[The above seem to be headlines, but are so long, wandering and redundant it's hard to tell. And "revolutionary?" Nothing in the release to support that claim.]

NEW YORK (September 28, 1999) - Opus360 Corporation announced today that a consortium of companies led by Safeguard Scientifics, Inc. (NYSE: SFE) has acquired a $40 million interest in the Company. The investor group's interest in partnering [Is this an investment or a partnership; "partner" is a noun, not a verb] with the Company centers on Opus360 Corporation's ebusiness solutions ["Solution" is so over-used and ill-defined that it has become meaningless] for today's changing services business [What sort of services might we be talking about?], particularly in the explosion [Was anyone injured in the blast?} of outsourcing, newsourcing [Pardon?] and the virtual labor force [Do these people simply exist on a hard drive or are they real people located in various other locations?]. In addition, MSD Capital's (the private investment firm for Michael Dell) focus on direct acquisition of goods and services and improving supply chain efficiency drove its backing [How? Why? No logical connection here.] of Opus360 Corporation and the FreeAgent.comsm brand, Opus360's leading [Leading? What is the factual basis for this? Who are the competition? What is their market share? If anybody else is bigger, then "leading" is incorrect.] Internet service for the growing [ Is it? From what to what?] population of independent professionals [Of what sort?].

Opus360 Corporation has developed an Internet-centric [Meaning what? Server-based? Is this a portal? An ASP? Hello!] solution [What's the problem? No mention of what this solution is solving.] for putting people and projects together [Is this is some sort of directory or database?], and for managing a corporation's most important asset, "Human Capital." [So trite, such platitudes! Pass the Pepto, please.] Through Opus360's Internet based [It was just "centric" before.] suite of solutions [Oh puhleese!], a corporation can manage the allocation of their entire workforce [Ah-hah! Looking like Human Resources stuff.], including permanent employees, temporary employees through temporary staffing partners [Temporary, temporary. Oh! The humanity!] and independent professionals [Who might be defined as....?] through FreeAgent.com [What the heck is this?].

"Opus360 has taken a leadership [See "leading," above. Give us some proof it has exerted leadership.] role in developing an Internet hub solution [Okay, first "centric," then "based," now a "hub." Just what the heck is this ... "solution?"] that manages knowledge workers [Buzz word alert!] more efficiently [How?] and provides the platform [Train arriving soon?] for managing the project-based, virtual workforce of the future [Would be nice to have some clear definition of this ... numbers on how it's expected to grow, definitions of how this differs from a more traditional work force.]," said Harry Wallaesa, President and COO of Safeguard Scientifics, "Their solutions for setting standards [So what is that standard? Did they really set a standard? How would that be defined?] for an Internet-based resource allocation management [This would be human resources?] and integrated supply chain solution [Supply chain? This seemed to be about human beings. And there's that meaningless "solution" again for which no problem has been defined.] for direct acquisition of labor [Smacks of indentured servitude.] are assets that can be leveraged [Are we leveraging people or the ill-defined solutions? Sentence is so long it's hard to tell.] across the Safeguard family, especially within our professional services partner companies. It's a great fit with our enterprise applications and e-commerce strategies!"

"We believe Opus360 will revolutionize [How?] the human resource supply chain [Ah ... this means packaging people ... One could assume that the slave trade also was a human resources supply chain as well.] and procurement process, much like Ariba is doing with corporate procurement [Procuring people? Probably not the intended connotation.] of office supplies [Okay, clearer now: Increased profits through handling people like a delivery from Office Depot?]," said Bob Hoff, general partner at Crosspoint Ventures.

Crosspoint Ventures also funded Ariba, Inc. (NASDAQ: ARBA) a technology company that manages corporate supply chains and is a strategic partner of Opus360.

In addition to Safeguard Scientifics and MSD Capital, the consortium of financial and strategic investors that hold equity positions in Opus360 include: Cambridge Technology Ventures (Cambridge Technology Partner's (NASDAQ: CATP) private investment arm), CompuCom (NASDAQ: CMPC), Crosspoint Ventures, CDI Corporation (NYSE: CDI), SI Venture Associates (Gartner Group's (NYSE: IT) investment arm), The Roman Arch Funds (Prudential Securities' private investment arms) BancBoston Ventures, USWeb/CKS (NASDAQ: USWB), Sapient (NASDAQ: SAPE), Wheatley Partners, Arista Capital Partners (Wit Capital's venture arm), Greenhill & Co., Bain Capital Partner's Fund, Reckson Service Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ: RSII), Pennsylvania Early Stage Partners, Odeon Capital, and RH Capital Partners.

Ari Horowitz, CEO of Opus360 Corporation said, "Our partnership with these companies is extremely important to us. [Wouldn't make much sense to spend time on a partnership with those who are unimportant. This is known as manufacturing a quote for an executive. Usually they are "thrilled" with one relationship or another with a "leading" company.] Their strategic equity interest [This would be an investment?] in our Company is an important component [Again, why bother with the unimportant?]for us in maintaining our leadership position [And what position would that be? How do you maintain an undefined position that may or may not exist? Where's the beef?] in forming the platform [Stamford local arriving in five!] for managing the supply chain of knowledge workers." [Hopefully that doesn't involve real chains or being packed in a semi or a ship's hold.]

About Opus360 Corporation Opus360 Corporation provides the leading [Prove it to me.] Internet-centric solution [Said that already.] for putting people and projects together, [Said that already.] and for managing a corporation's most important asset, "Human Capital." [Said that already.] Opus 360 provides a suite of services [Said that already.] across the spectrum of a project-based workforce [Said that already.]. These web-based services enable organizations to manage their internal resources, [Said that already.] their vendors' resources, as well as the largest virtual workforce and most diverse group of independent consultants and freelancers through FreeAgent.com [Still no idea what the blazes this might be.]. The Company's solutions [Gag!] also enable service organizations and free agent businesses [Which might be what?] to increase profitability and revenues [By how much? This thrown in almost as an afterthought], increase utilization rates [Of what? People? From what to what?] and retention of employees, streamline project schedules, predict resource shortages and surpluses, identify bottle necks in delivery and increase customer and employee satisfaction [Sounds like a veritable Swiss Army knife of something or another ... web based/centric/hubbed thingy or whatever.]. Opus360 Corporation is a private company [Said that already.] backed by a consortium of investors [Said that already.] including Safeguard Scientifics (NYSE:SFE), Crosspoint Ventures, Wheatley L.P., Cambridge Technology Ventures, Gartner Group, and MSD Capital. Opus360 is based in New York and can be reached on the Internet at www.Opus360.com. FreeAgent.comSM is a wholly owned subsidiary of Opus360 Corporation. FreeAgent.com can be reached at www.FreeAgent.com. [Congratulations! Got all the way through and NEVER told us what this might be.]

[Enough, already!]

About Safeguard (www.safeguard.com)

Safeguard is an Internet-centricholding company that identifies, acquires, operates and manages business-to-business companies and has interests in several private equity funds. Safeguard currently focuses on companies engaged in e-commerce, network infrastructure activities, and enterprise applications. Safeguard generally acquires ownership interests in companies that allow it to have a significant influence over their direction and management over the long-term. Safeguard assigns a dedicated team to each partner company and actively assists its partner companies in their management, operations and finances. Safeguard seeks to maximize shareholder value by actively providing operational assistance and expertise to help its partner companies grow and develop and by giving its shareholders the opportunity to participate in the initial public offerings of its partner companies while retaining a significant ownership interest after the initial public offering. Safeguard also participates in, and in some cases is involved in the management of, several private equity funds. Its network of partner companies and private equity funds creates an environment through which companies can leverage one another's information technology, operational experience, business contacts and industry expertise.


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