Life is not a race, but startups are. You have to add value to the market before the runway is up. Success and failure are binary.
Are you making money, or not? There's no way to bullshit success in a startup, though some people try. Basically, only one thing matters: how useful you are.
People pay for usefulness, it's that simple. Want to make more money? Be more useful. Not making money? You're not useful enough.
A lot us tried everything to chase money.
- We create a "personal brand," and we think that makes money.
- We put money into stocks, and we think that makes money.
- We buy crypto (basically gambling), and we think that makes money.
But at the end of the day, you're with your personal brand, and you think: “When do we become profitable?”
Well, I can tell you what’s next: You, chasing the next shiny thing you think will make you money.
It’s all a façade. A myth. A made-up story.
Startups making big money and having a big impact aren't doing it with personal brands. They're doing it by adding huge value.
It comes down to this: What are you DOING that’s useful?
Are you doing useful things in your startup? You don’t have to change the world or anything. Just add a bit more value than what was there before you were born.
If you don’t know how, here are some ideas. I'll give examples that are fairly easy, that almost anyone can start with.
1. Content creation
A startup makes money by offering something useful, and then bringing eyeballs to that thing. A great way to get eyeballs/attention/visibility (marketing) is with content creation.
This can be things like LinkedIn or Facebook posts, YouTube videos, articles, or an e-book. Basically, putting out useful content will help draw attention to what you've created.
Personally, I focus on short, engaging stories, like this post on LinkedIn that reached almost 1.5 million views:
When you have more to say (long-form), that's where articles come in. As of writing this, I've published almost 100 articles, which I list on my LinkedIn for greater visibility:
Very long-form content is well-suited for books and reports, like this research report I recently published:
The thing I really like about content creation is that there's no way to BS it. You either create tons of content, or you don't.
As we learned: "A startup makes money by offering something useful, and then bringing eyeballs to that thing." Leads are highly-targeted views and interest in your product, and a great way to get leads (early on) is with networking. Leads are people on the path to buying from you. You can have cold leads that have some small pinch of interest, like visiting your landing page, or hot leads that you just got off a call with to discuss pricing.
Leads are another thing you can't BS, because you either have people saying they might want to buy, or you don't. If you're a tech startup, your product may not be already on market, so you can't close deals yet, but you can get leads.
A lead can be as simple as a message saying that someone's interested in buying. It's a strong validation of your offer.
3. Public Speaking
The average person is deathly afraid of public speaking, which means that being able to public speak lends authority and credibility, and doing it well will bring in leads.
There's a reason my LinkedIn banner is mostly pictures of me public speaking--you can read all about the ways public speaking creates authority.
Compared to corporates, startups are lacking in authority. Most people haven't heard of most startups, but everyone's heard of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and so on. Jeff Bezos doesn't need an introduction.
Public speaking is a great way to build authority for your startup.
4. Document & Analyze
In startups, a lot of things are lost to the fast-paced nature of business. However, startups are the perfect environment to record and analyze what's working and what isn't. You might have just hosted an event, so you can ask, "was it worth it?" Really get into the numbers and figure out if you're doing the right things.
You want to analyze all your expenses, and see which ones are bringing in the highest return, and why. Always seek to optimize how your resources are allocated, and you can save tons of time, money, and effort for your startup.
You don't need to be an accountant to do this. Just have some common sense. Was that company trip to the Bahamas needed? Maybe the boost to company morale made it worth it, who knows, but the least you have to do is take a data-driven approach to your startup's success.