Press

As a startup founder, you will most likely be asked about or try to get press at some point during your company’s life. While it might seem like a good idea to always say yes, I’d argue otherwise. Doing PR/media unintentionally is a distraction.

Number one mistake is doing it because you want customers. You might get a spike in traffic, but nobody has nor will use PR/media as a sustainable customer acquisition channel. There might be exceptions but they are hard to come by. Focus instead on learning to acquire customers sustainably.

Number two mistake is doing it because your investors want you to. They might want to market themselves through you, but more than that they want a return on invested capital. You doing unintentional PR/media most of all show that you are unable to focus on what’s most important for your business.

You should do PR/media because you want to hire. You could call this “employer branding”, and it can be impactful. 

You should do PR/media because you are planning to raise more funding. Investors read, and being in the press might increase the attractiveness of your round (FOMO) and lead to better terms for you.

Some should do PR/media because they perform better with external pressure. Telling the world they exist increases motivation, the work harder not to fail.

Don’t do press unless you know why you’re doing it. 

Triangulation

There’s a lot of advice being given in startup world. Most advisors have good intentions, but that does not mean that most give good advice. 

Everybody wants to be helpful, and when asked a question we all try to answer the best way we can. But many times we do not know enough about the matter in question to give a good answer. And unfortunately, many fail to disclose this potential lack of understanding when answering, sometimes leading to entrepreneurs following bad advice blindly.

One should always assess advice based on the arguments supporting it, rather than the credentials of the person giving it (but sometimes a person’s credentials is a supporting argument in itself). Talk to multiple people, and triangulate to figure out what kind of hypothesis you want to move forward with.

I find myself giving advice to entrepreneurs once in a while, and in such settings, I try to always mention this.

image

Introductions

Wanted to elaborate a bit on this.

I do more and more introductions. It’s a great way to be helpful, but done the wrong way it can do more harm than good. From my perspective, there are two essentials to keep in mind:

1. Always allow for double opt-in
This is elaborated on here. In brief, you want to make sure both sides are okay with being introduced before connecting them. This way you avoid connecting people where one side does not want to follow up, and it also makes both the connector and one receiver look bad. 

2. Send something forwardable. 
This is elaborated on here. In brief, have one side send something that makes it easier for you to ask the other side for the meeting (double opt-in style). Be short and specific about what you do and why you want the meeting. More often than not the receiver is high in demand, so if your forward mail is too long you often end up not getting a reply at all. 

Building premium products

The reMarkable team is shipping their first product days. So far it’s been a great success, with the most pre-orders for any European company ever, and some great reviews. Still lots of risk left, but the way they’ve maneuvered through obstacles since we first invested tells me they’ll manage whatever challenge they face in the future as well.

Their pre-sales campaign is one of many things they really nailed. The most natural thing for an entrepreneur wanting to do pre-sales would be to do a Kickstarter campaign. The infrastructure is there, “all” you have to do is create the content. But the guys at Remarkable were early determined not to do pre-sales that way – Kickstarter was associated with gadgets, not premium products.

So they set up their campaign on their own website. It’s quite easy to integrate payments to any website these days, so technically it was no big deal. By doing it this way, they controlled the full experience. No minimum sales target, and the design/feel was 100% remarkable (pun intended). From the start their product felt more like a premium product.

Their newest product video (top) is truly great, and really speaks to that (premium) fact.

No synonyms

No synonyms.” Why not? “If you want to communicate effectively, you need to be clear with the words you use.

Quote from Pete Carrol in Grit. Not about hard things, but very relevant when it comes to one of the three things a CEO has to do to succeed; articulating and communicating the overall vision and strategy. The need for clear communication increases with the size of an organization and its surroundings. Better start off right – be clear.

Grit

Finished reading Grit this weekend. It’s one of those books that I’ll definitely read again, so obviously I recommend that you read it at least one. Four-word summary: hard work beats talent. 

There’s a lot of gold throughout the whole book, and reading it reminded me of the PayPal Mafia. I read somewhere (can’t find it now) that when asked why so many from the original PayPal-crew went on to start other successful ventures, they referred to the period after the dot-com burst. PayPal did a huge raise ($90M) just weeks before the bubble burst, when suddenly the environment shifted from being pro-web to anti-web. From having highly supportive surroundings, their market went sour and nobody wanted to engage with them or other web companies.

Fast-forward a few years, PayPal made it through and built a very successful company. It surely wasn’t easy, but they worked hard and did some amazing stuff. They brought this experience with them when they went on to start other companies, many of whom have been highly successful (LinkedIn, Tesla, SpaceX, Yelp, Youtube, Palantir etc). According to themselves, it was through the rough years with PayPal they learned what it takes more than anything to build a great company; the value of working hard and enduring. 

Keith Rabois (also ex-PayPal btw) has quite actively argued for the importance of hard work on Twitter the past few weeks. I completely agree with him; if you want to build a great company (doesn’t necessarily mean a great life), you have to really commit. We’ve worked with around 200 companies at StartupLab so far, and the only thing I can say for certain about what it takes to succeed is hard work. It’s not that every hard-working entrepreneur succeeds, but every succeeding entrepreneur has worked (a lot) harder than average. 

I’ll be thinking about how to assess grit when I meet entrepreneurs going forward. From an investment perspective, it’s definitely information I’d like to have. Most entrepreneurs will _say_ they’re hard-working, but fewer will show it in action long-term. If you have good ideas on how to assess this predictively, let me know

Talking about good music

Today’s tune

Dejlig dansk

The Startup Dichotomy

More and more realizing how a startup can be divided into one of two stages; pre or post product-market-fit. Some sort of dichotomy, as the title says. But this is really important. Some even argue that the number one reason startups fail is they don’t recognize what stage they are in, aka. premature scaling

Theoretically, the two phases are really easy to understand. In practice, it’s a lot harder. Pre product-market-fit, you should only experiment. Figure out what your customers want. And once you have it, scale. That’s the post part. 

The most difficult thing is figuring out when you go from the first to the second phase. It’s the opposite of flipping a switch. It will happen gradually and you will notice it through your hypotheses strengthening. Usage increases day by day, and at some point you will be confident enough that you have product-market-fit, and can start scaling. 

Succeeding is about doing this at the right time.