Startups Are Always Crazy

I’ve spent the last few months talking with startup founders here in Santa Monica and worldwide. I’ve learned that startups are always crazy. Everything is always changing. A state of emergency, if not panic, is what’s happening every day.

What everybody needs, and isn’t necessarily getting, is a steady hand. A way forward. A sense of what to focus on and how to prioritize.

Look, focus is challenging, even in calm times.  But when you are pivoting this way and that, seeking customers, trying to find out what works as fast as you can and yes, fail as fast as you can so that you can succeed – let’s just say that things get a little crazy.

The solution? There really isn’t one that fits all startups. But I do have some thoughts about it. A go-to-market plan with achievable deadlines is smart. Most of you do one of those. But you also need an achievable communications plan. That often gets pushed off until it is too late.  I think what happens is that everyone freezes up because they don’t know what to start on first. How about a list for that?

UX. Check the user experience of your webpage or landing page. Is there a good flow? Does it get visitors to do what you need them to do, whether that is is to sign up for a mailing list, get on an early access list, or visit the app store?

Sales and relationship funnels.  We hear a lot of talk about sales funnels.  You know, those things that supposedly turn users into customers.  I think we all need to talk more about relationship funnels.  Those are the pathways potential customers use to get to know you, experience your culture, and get a nice warm feeling about what you’re doing. You just can’t skip this step.

Working with the media. Do you know which reporters, writers and bloggers will be interested in writing about your work? Get started as early as you can discovering who they are and reach out to them, on Twitter to start.  Research and connection tools like for bloggers and for more mainstream journalists have turned a job that used to take hours into one that takes minutes. Investigate them and you’ll thank me later.

Data sets.  What do you know about your potential customers?  Asking them is a good idea, and Typeform makes it fun and easy to do so. Ask in person whenever you can with in-person interviews. I believe in mailing lists as data-gathering tools, and I like using Emma and MailChimp because of the data they offer. You need to discover the lowest-friction way of learning about your users. A mailing list is a good way to start, and will provide enough data to keep you going.

Do you have the bandwidth for all of this? Most startup founders don’t, but those who succeed do.