As a young boy, Bruce Wayne watched his parents die in an alley after they were shot by a mugger. This event was pivotal in his life and became the basis of his future career as Batman, Gotham City’s crime fighting hero. It is a powerful Origin Story because it informs the reader of the protagonist’s motivation throughout the remainder of his career to, “swear by the spirits of my parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals.” A startup’s Origin Story can be equally powerful. Every employee should know why their startup was founded in order to appreciate how their Origin Story impacts their company’s Core Values and Creed.
At one of my early ventures, the Chairman of the Board orchestrated the companywide meetings. He was a disciple of famed motivational speaker Tony Robbins and he accordingly ran our “all-hands” company meetings like revival sessions. I remember one meeting that was particularly ineffectual. We were running out of cash, our primary competitor was overtaking us and our latest products were stalled by significant regulatory hurdles. Despite our sobering circumstances, we entered this particular meeting to Tina Turner shouting, “Simply The Best” at us over and over and over. I was not alone in wondering, “If we really are ‘simply the best,’ why do we need to be told so by an aging diva?” The meeting went downhill from this rousing opening, ending with our Chairman telling us, “You need to create our own reality,” quickly followed by an encore of Tina’s rousing chant. I trudged out of the meeting thinking I was, “simply the screwed,” if I hung around much longer. Shortly thereafter I left the company and its over-the-top, out-of-touch company meetings.
Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start, addresses a number of valuable startup issues, including fundraising, partnering, branding and beyond. In addition to these foundational startup issues, Guy also briefly discusses how to properly design a corporate T-shirt. When I evaluated Guy’s book for its potential use in my UCSB entrepreneurial classes, I was impressed overall, but I thought his comments on T-shirt designs were gratuitous. My initial thought was, “Guy, are you really telling me how to design a corporate T-shirt?” Then I took a moment to consider a couple T-shirts we developed at Expertcity (creator of GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting, acquired by Citrix). Upon reflection, I realized that we would have been well served if we had applied Guy’s T-shirt suggestions.
I recently had lunch with Mark Suster, General Partner at GRP Partners, blogger extraordinaire and overall cool dude. I am writing this entry at 4:00 AM. Mark’s kindness and insights moved me to roll out of bed, fire up my laptop and share my thoughts while they are still fresh. Mark recently wrote a blog entry titled “Whom Should You Hire At A Startup” that was forwarded to me by about a dozen people, including several of my former students. If you have not read it, please take a quick moment to check it out. Reading it will provide you with a good frame of reference for the remainder of this post.
Messenger: Dan Engel, Co-Founder and CEO, SaaSy, Co-Founder and CEO, FastSpring, former Marketing Manager at Google, VP of Market Development at Picasa Value Prop Twitter Style: SaaSy is: “the 1st all-in-one payment & subscription management service designed for SaaS, Web service, & Web 2.0 companies”
I was recently working at my kitchen table while my adolescent son was watching the History Channel’s reality TV show Pawn Stars. The show caught my attention, as a litany of extremely unsophisticated individuals sold their family heirlooms and other “treasures” at cut-rate prices to the professional negotiators who star in the show. Having appeared on a reality TV show, I am well aware of the lack of reality involved in such shows. As the Producer of the show I worked on told me, “There is very little that is real in reality TV.” Even taking into account the show’s lack of reality, I found it to be an entertaining way to coach my son regarding basic negotiating tactics.
Messenger: Ryan Rifkin, Co-Founder & VP of Operations, Burstly, Co-Founder & Sr. Director of Partnerships at TagWorld/Flux (sold to Viacom) Value Prop Twitter Style: Burstly is: “A monetization platform for iOS and Android app developers”
In 1987, when Rick Astley filmed the video for his hit song Never Gonna Give You Up, he had no idea it would eventually become one of the most viewed videos of all time. By 2011, the video had been watched over 50 million times. Never Gonna Give You Up’s resurgence began in 2007, when a user on an obscure gaming site posted a link to Rick’s video under the heading for a trailer of the not-yet-released Grand Theft Auto IV video game. One year later, the phenomenon had become commonplace and was dubbed “Rickrolling,” a term that is now ubiquitous with any Internet misdirection technique. Although Rickrolling is a harmless, rather pedestrian prank, many companies unknowingly Rickroll their customers and prospects by improperly aligning their products’ capabilities with their respective marketing messages.
Messenger: Clark Landry, Co-Founder, GraphEffect, Co-Founder, TagWorld (sold to Viacom) Co-Founder, Top Level Domain Holdings (AIM TLDH), Seed Investor Adconion and Traffic Marketplace (sold to Vivendi). Value Prop Twitter Style: GraphEffect is: "A product that helps clients advertise more effectively on Facebook."