Startups: Advice from Venture Beat?

August 26, 2013
If you build it, they will come? Not likely for a tech start-up.

If you build it, they will come? Not likely for a tech start-up.

I recently read an article on Venture Beat call “Stop founding! 10 signs you’re ‘employee material’“. It had some interesting perspectives: some I agree with and some I don’t. But the one thing in the article that stood out that I completely disagreed with was “You can’t design or code” so therefore you are a better employee vs. a founder. I don’t think I’m misreading the argument in the article. But if I am, please do comment and let me know.

That seems to perpetuate the idea that a good product is all that is needed to make a successful start-up. As a non-technical executive in marketing, business development and general management, I resent that idea. The reality is that the valley is full of great technical products but that product fails because (1) it’s great, but not what people want (2) it’s great but nobody knows about it.

A solid founding team should have both a tech and business founder so as to balance the requirements of launching a viable business, not just a viable product. This is especially true today when there is very little time between creating a great product and for other people to create something similar/same. The thing that is standing between you, the success of your company and a possible ROI for your investors is adoption of your product by consumers.

This is not “Field of Dreams” people (and most of us are not Kevin Costner being lead by disembodied voices from a long dead baseball team)! Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come! I *love* (please note sarcasm here…) people who say, “Well, you don’t need a marketing. If you build a great product, people will just use it, word of mouth. Also you can use viral marketing.”

Yeah, OK. This is usually coming from people who are (1) not marketers. Believe me, just because you have been exposed to marketing doesn’t mean you know marketing. If you have not actually taken a role with marketing in the title, you are not a marketer. (2) Investors because they don’t want to spend marketing dollars.

Viral marketing and word of mouth require a trigger, a successful activation of these campaigns. We live in a very noisy world with a lot of people competing for attention for a lot of things. It takes skills to create successful viral and word-of-mouth campaigns. It takes the skills of good marketers.

So respectfully Venture Beat, I think it’s a provocative article and an interesting read. But for those of us toiling to make companies successful in the marketplace, please have some respect.


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