Why Don’t You Love Your Startup?

You quit your job, gave up a stable income, and started working non-stop on a startup. To do this you either must be insane, stupid, or truly in love with your startup. I’ll assume that the primary reason is that you really are in love with your company, product, and team. Yet, when you’re in love, aren’t you supposed to shout it from the mountain tops? I just don’t get it.

 

Picking a fight

The other day I was hanging out with some guys who are taking on Microsoft as one of their core competitors. A new product release was just published and they were literally laughing at how awful it was. It only supports MS SQL Server? Terrible. Oh and look at this list of features– wow, pathetic! Then they went back to work.

I stared in disbelief. Here you are, you have the easiest company in the world to slam and they just served you up a floater. All you have to do is take all that you just said and blog about it. People who hate Microsoft will tweet about it, people who love your product will tweet about– in fact, even people who work for Microsoft will tweet about it! They’ll also vote it up on HackerNews, like it on Facebook and +1 it on Google+. The end result will be an increase in your brand’s mindshare and probably even a few sales leads!

 

Reminding people who won

Another friend’s awesome startup has about 10 competitors for their API-based product. Someone wrote a blog article comparing all the players in the space and demonstrated that my friend’s startup is the most accurate hands down. It was a great blog post, and it got voted up to the frontpage of HackerNews– which is actually how I found their startup to begin with. They posted a short summary and link on their own blog. Then they were done with it.

Well… no, you’re not. First off, people have short memories. When it comes to deciding between marginally-different service, they’re more likely to go with the company that is on the top of their mind.1 You need to constantly remind people you’re the best– each one of those 10 competitors lost for a reason, which means you have 10 blog posts (at least!) that you can write, picking apart each one with examples where they fail miserably. You probably already have the examples since founders always stalk their competitors obsessively.

 

Seriously, be in love

Attacking your competition is one way to demonstrate that you’re awesome. The other side of that is showing how much you personally love your startup. I mean do you really love your product? Do you tell people how awesome every day is in your office? Do you remark about how great your team is? Yes, everyone has probably heard you say it once before, but you should express your love constantly.

One of the best examples of a team that is in love with their product is Twilio. The two people I know there, Danielle Morrill and John Sheehan are complete animals that eat, sleep, and drink their company. John stopped by the AppHarbor offices during a meetup event to “just relax”– which for him meant bringing a bag full of Twilio t-shirts and decals. The energy he has for what can be built with Twilio is so infectious that if anyone in the room didn’t know what Twilio was going into the night, they were leaving the event excited to build a Twilio-based app. Similarly, I swear Danielle wakes up in the morning, opens her eyes, smiles, and says “I sure love Twilio today. I really need to tweet about that.” And you know what, it works! Twilio has one of the most satisfied developer bases and I am not even aware of a serious competing service.

 

Conclusion – your startup deserves better than this

Stop being an emotionally distant founder. You made a commitment to this startup. You don’t need a PR firm to help with that “other side” of the company. You need to be the brand. You need to voice your love constantly, because business is about people and people respond to passion.

 

Footnotes
  1. My friends in the advertising industry confirm this. Why do you think Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T spend so much money on advertising?

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