When the founder of a bootstrapped startup goes to bed at night, what does he dream of? Why, Series A, of course! It’s the moment when a startup gets the stamp of approval; it says that you have arrived. All fine and dandy, but the question remains – how the Dickens do you get to Series A?
This diabolical puzzle was the topic of a recent talk by Anshul Sushil, the startup marketing expert who co-founded Boring Brands. So without further ado, we present the Five Pillars to Series A that Anshul unveiled to the audience on that fateful day.
Keep your notebook handy!
Don’t dump data; use it creatively: When one hears “data”, the mind jumps to cloud computing, analytics, data mining, Hadoop, and other larger-than-life concepts. Most startups don’t need to go for such overkill methods. Instead, Anshul urged startups to use the data they were already collecting creatively. Case in point: CaskKaro.com GOSF 2014 trends infographic done by Boring Brands. Using the data of transactions already happening on its website, CashKaro.com was able to release a timely infographic and was drowning in media coverage. How’s that for a startups marketing tactic?!
Make friends in media early: What’s the use of starting to dig a well when the house’s on fire? The same goes for media relations. You need to start making friend in media not from the day you decide to become famous, but from day one. Don’t have deep pockets? The team at Boring Brands feels for you! Which has led us, said Anshul, to develop wizikey, a reputation management tool that works just like your personal genie. wizikey makes it easy to identify and reach out to media, while keeping an eye on what people are saying about you. Call it DIY PR on steroids!
Experiment, test, learn. Repeat: Too many startups, too little experimentation. That’s what’s ailing the startup ecosystem, according to Anshul. Everyone is looking for sure-shot ways to the top, but hey, it doesn’t work that way. The third pointer Anshul gave to the audience was the idea of experimentation. Startup marketing succeeds not when it’s backed by a ridiculous budget, but when it clicks with the audience. And how do you make sure it clicks? Well, you experiment!
Be a brand, not bland: Right from customers to investors, people believe in brands. Even the best solutions end up gathering dust if they’re not propelled by a compelling brand persona. The lesson? Focus on developing your brand while you still have time, rather than waking up to the nasty cobwebs on your ceiling one dull morning. And don’t even think branding means outsourcing the “logo design job” to a freelancer. Always remember the law of startup marketing: You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
How to time the market: We’ve grown up believing that the best way to approach a potential lover or a market is timing. Time it well, the ghosts of legacy tell us, and everything will take care of itself. Anshul Shushil, who has built a career of outstanding branding and marketing campaigns, told the audience that he agrees. Except that he believes the best time is now. Not the next year, not the next month, and not the next day. Now! Startups that wait for perfection keep doing just that: waiting. The trick is to get started right away and improve as you move along. The analogy of changing the tires of a running car fits here – scary, but essential for survival.
And so we come back to it: is it hard to go from bootstrapped to Series A? If you take time to construct these pillars, not at all!
Agree? Disagree? Please share your views in comments.