It’s bragging at best and blowing smoke at worst.
This means that most of the people who actually have the most interesting and useful experience to add to the public conversation don’t. This means that the public conversation ends up being a lot of hot air driven by people who crave the limelight, which tends to be an unfavorably selected group that workers don’t want to associate with.
Unfortunately, this has real consequences for founders. You’d like to believe that the world is completely meritocratic: you’ll put your head to work on your company, achieve all your metrics, and only show up at the door of a venture capital firm that will only gasp at the small one fantastic company you have created. Obviously, they’ll see the value of what you’ve built and be compelled to offer a term sheet on the spot.
That’s not how it works.
There are so many companies out there and the reality is that many of them look alike. Very few of them have outstanding traction, because building a company and achieving results is more “machine-driven” than ever. If you got the same seed size as everyone else, you can only hire so many salespeople, spend so much on marketing, and those resources can only capture so many customers in a market that’s efficient for people’s time. Sure, maybe someone turned a $500,000 round from friends and family into a $10mm company, and that founder automatically gets a check, but to everyone else, it’s not as special as you think.
So how can founders differentiate themselves?
This is a question that relates to what VCs are actually buying when they decide to write a check, and by the way, this also applies to talent. They are not buying your past story. They are buying what you will become, because you are selling them a ticket to the future.
This goes way beyond what your cash flow model says you will. This is at the heart of what kind of decisions you will make as a founder in an uncertain future. It’s about how your brain will work, what that will mean in terms of the moves you’ll make as an executive and the results you’ll get in your business.
Unfortunately, the blueprint and operations manual of how the CEO’s brain works doesn’t really come out in a pitch meeting. You spend most of your time talking about the market, the product, the financials of it all, when really the person at the table is trying to figure out if your brain is awesome or broken.
Talent must make the same assessment when trying to decide if they want to work for you. They imagine coming into your office to explain a problem they have and trying to figure out if you’ll be reasonable, or even better, super creative with solutions, or so petty that they’ll immediately start looking for them. next job
How is anyone supposed to understand these things about you?
Well, they would know if you wrote a book, of course!
I’m not saying you have to write an actual book. I certainly don’t plan on writing any, but somehow, I write the contents of a book every year in my blog/newsletter/substack/whatever the kids are calling it long form these days. It wouldn’t be too hard for me to put my content into a book either, because in my head I know what book I’m writing and what the table of contents is.
And what I’m getting at is having a mental outline of the content that would be useful to you if you were to publish it. Whether it actually ends up in book form is up to you. In fact, writing might not even be your thing. This doesn’t matter, because the content can be split into many different ways.
So whatever book you’re writing, whether it’s a book for marketers to learn how to sell solutions versus products or what it’s like to be a founder and parent of a child with special needs, you can start with a set of chapters and each of these chapters would have an equivalent number of contents that would accumulate.
Let’s say you had an idea that you could divide into 10 chapters. A non-fiction book might be 60,000 words, so each chapter would be about 6,000 words.
Medium reports that the ideal read for a post is 7 minutes or 1600 words, which means each chapter is really only 4-5 medium/blog/longform newsletter posts. Maybe one of these is a three-part series and then you only have a single to add to it.
Want to break it up into tweets and tweet threads? You can fit about 40-50 words into a 280 character tweet, and a good tweet thread is probably 6-10 tweets long. Let’s say 8, which means the average tweet thread will give you 400 words or so.
This means that if you tweet a thread every day for two weeks, you have a book chapter.
Maybe you’re not much of a writer. Maybe you’d rather do a podcast or video series. Well, at 125 words per minute, 48 minutes of podcasting will get you one chapter. Of course, not every minute of a podcast is content dense… you have intros, outliers, ads, etc… and don’t forget tangents. So, if you were really trying to turn your podcast content into a book, it would probably take you 2-3 podcasts to make a chapter.
The point is, instead of starting with a blank page on Substack or an empty tweet, you should start with the end goal in mind.
Ask yourself the following question:
What book would serve you and your business well if you wrote it and it became a bestseller?
Now, obviously, it has to be reasonable, right? You can’t write the best-selling book on how to take your company public if it’s not something you’ve done before, or can you?
Well, not all books are just you choosing what now. Most books involve research, and there’s no reason why your personal brand can’t also be one that’s more about being a public student than an expert. Your entire “personal brand” could be just you curating the best thinking you can find on a particular topic as you seek to become the expert on that topic.
I mean, it’s really hard to be a braggart and tough learner, isn’t it? No one could tell you that you know if you are only studying to learn more. Being less authoritative and more curious is a perfectly acceptable mark for a founder, and I would argue that curiosity and the ability to learn are actually some of the most predictive traits for founder success.
You will find many things that you do not know during your initial journey. A willingness to ask other people questions to find out how these problems have been solved before or how they are being solved more efficiently than they are now is so important. I don’t need a founder to know exactly how to run a business sales team, as long as it’s the kind of founder who can write the post titled “I asked the top 10 sales leaders the keys to having a successful sales team. and that that’s what I learned.”
Just think for a moment what it would be like to discuss your enterprise SaaS business model with a potential investor who wrote this post. I mean, just being the person who took the time to reach out to all of these leaders to learn from them will give you a real advantage in your answer, because your answer will probably be a lot better than it would be otherwise. used the excuse of a publication to do this research.
Also, if this post is in your email signature, LinkedIn activity feed, pinned to your Twitter profile, etc., even if the VC didn’t see it the first time, that will help a lot with your personal conversation. funnel
This is something that a lot of people don’t think about. Whenever I suggest they start posting content, their first thought is, “There’s so much out there, who’s going to read everything I’ve posted?” Well, maybe no one, unless someone starts investigating you. What happens when someone searches for you on Google? Just your LinkedIn profile? Crunchbase? The About section of your company website? Do any of these things do a great job of answering an investor’s question about how your CEO brain works and what they can count on you for in the future if they were to invest? Does it help a potential employee understand what you, and by extension, your team, would like to work for?
Forget the fact that some of your content might reach the startup community, which would be a plus because then you might get investors you’ve never heard of or talent you didn’t know was looking for. Focus on the people who really need something you’re reaching out to. What do these people find when they search for your internet presence? what does it say about you You need to start thinking about these people and treat your content as “pre-reading” for your email pitch and subsequent meeting. Wouldn’t it be better if they already think you’re an expert operator before did you try to make a first impression on them in the first release?
Well, they will definitely think so if they send your Medium post to their other eCommerce founders or retweet it.
The question of what your “book” should be about (or, rather, the aggregate narrative thread of the thought leadership you’ll present over the next year) depends on what kind of person you want to portray, what your company or needs are. professionals, how old are you, etc. It’s best to work with others who are already publishing content, with the types of people you hope to build relationships with (investors, clients, talent) and also with people who take the time to get to know you.
I’ll write more about this soon, but if you’re a founder interested in building your “personal brand” (ugh), my wife, Aja Singer, and I’m brainstorming some ideas on how to help people with this and we’d love to get in touch when we’re ready. Fill out this form and we’ll call you when we have something to share.
At Ikaroa, we have noticed that more and more founders are finding it difficult to navigate the world of personal branding. Despite the ever-growing trend of using social media and personal channels to promote yourself and your business, too many entrepreneurs seem to be stuck in the old way of doing things.
This is why Ikaroa firmly believes that every founder who tries to shun personal branding should write a book which could be titled “This is Going to be BIG”. Such a book would serve as a powerful manifesto on what sets entrepreneurs apart in the current digital climate, where individualism is often overlooked in favour of generic online presence.
A book of this kind would allow the author to share their experiences and the strategies they used to succeed without embracing personal branding. It would also be a great way to show other entrepreneurs that they don’t need to give into the pressures of having to post photos from every occasion, taking a “daily selfie”, or trying to make each blog post going viral.
At the same time, it would be a great opportunity for the author to appeal to potential investors, as such a book would be a great asset for entrepreneurs to prove that their project is both refreshing and viable.
We understand that personal branding may not be for everyone and we would like to encourage those founders who don’t feel the need to get on social media, to take the dive and write a book to empower the rest of the entrepreneurs.
Ikaroa is more than happy to be part of the process and share the knowledge we have obtained while successfully creating our own unique personal brand. As experts in the field of digital marketing, we understand how important it is to stay true to one’s self. So, if you are ready to take the next step, be sure to contact us!