From the art of the pitch to a smooth sale and everything in between, these seven tenets come straight from the annals of successful startups.
Last week, Vancouver’s GROW 2012 conference convened some all-stars of the startup scene, stirring together corporate leads from Indiegogo, Eventbrite, Zite, Paypal, Cheezburger Inc. and more with infamous super angel Dave McClure and a smattering of high profile venture capitalists from firms like Bessemer and the Founders Fund. We crunched it all up into seven bits of bite-sized startup wisdom that bear repeating:
1. Don’t Be F*cking Boring
Pitch with emotion. This is obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it’s ignored. If you don’t believe in your product, how can you possibly expect an investor or reporter to care? In the sage, profanity-laced words of super angel Dave McClure, “You should totally be dancing your f*cking balls off.”
2. Building A Great Product Is Not. Good. Enough.
Know your business model from the get-go. Too many startups create a great product and try to figure out a revenue model later, says Urban Airship‘s Scott Kveton. That is putting the cart before the horse – even if it doesn’t seem like it.
3. Fake It ‘Til You Make It
If you say you built it, they will come. When Box COO Dan Levin took the stage, he drove home the power of turning perception into reality with some striking anecdotes. In its earlier days, Box asserted that it belonged in the same league as Microsoft’s SharePoint, the market leader. The media picked it up as a David vs. Goliath story, and sure enough, it became true. Create the perception that you’re a market leader too – but don’t forget to deliver on the promise.
4. Dont Be Afraid To Be Ridiculous
At Grow 2012, everyone was buzzing about an unlikely Facebook game in which you battle roosters against one another (presumably to the death). The creator of the game – called Kawk Fighter – pranced around the entire conference in rooster red pants, spouting phallocentric double entendres. He barely had to explain his product to make it to the final round of Grow’s Startup Smackdown competition. He didn’t drum up buzz because his product raised a huge round of capital, or had a business model that was particularly lucid – it just made for a good (if easy) joke. Obnoxious, sure. Memorable? Definitely. Wear the proverbial red pants if you have to.
5. Get It All On Paper
Don’t be naive. Unless you want the bottom to drop out, get it all in writing. Zite CEO Mark Johnson (who recently sold the company to CNN for more than $20 million) stressed that when it comes to acquisitions, you don’t want to be empty handed with a bunch of unfulfilled promises if management changes or if there’s less follow-through than you’d expected.
6. Hire Hackers, Hustlers And Hipsters
Focus on building a team, when it comes to skills and personalities. McClure suggests bringing together three main types: hackers, hustlers and hipsters. The hackers build the product, the hustlers sell it, and the hipsters make the design look good. But beyond their immediate skillsets, the personalities that converge early on will set the tone for your company’s climate, especially if it explodes.
7. Look Beyond The Valley
If the conference proved anything, it was that Silicon Valley doesn’t have the market cornered on innovation or investing. Among Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, the Pacific Northwest corridor is bustling with ideas, investors and fledgling companies well beyond the solipsistic forcefield of technology’s startup-glutted beating heart.