Derek ShanahanGrowth Marketer @Playerize
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Growth & Marketing @Playerize. Previously founded @Foodtree & @20SB.



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Like Tom said, at zero you'll get the most value out of direct outreach to customers you believe are your target avatar. Ideally you'd do this before you build much software, in fact.

The best way to get the process rolling is to request feedback or an interview-like meeting with them to understand their business and problems, maybe doing a light demo of what you're building. Get them involved early and keep them updated as you progress, and when it comes time to ask them to try it out/sign up and pay you, you will have a warm lead and relationship.

Growth marketing is grunt work until you're scaling. Also happy to chat specifics if you'd like to set up a call.


If you like it, go for it. Blogging takes a lot of energy and commitment, so go with a name that resonates with you first and foremost - you want it to be a place you really enjoy writing. That said, it can be helpful to 'brand' something in a way that's easy to remember - easy to spell, easy to pronounce. You can test that by simply asking people to spell it when you say it to them, or by showing them the name and asking them to say it. People may have trouble with "empiric".


Incentivize your current members to bring in new ones. Pay them for referrals. It's the best way to have happy members bring in qualified leads.

Also, leverage your current membership by having them articulate their experience. Have them write testimonials, do short video interviews (can be done with just an iPhone!), and take pictures to share on any social channel you have.

I always tell founders to take what's working, what's great, and "unwrap" it for the world. That means to have your "users" document the things they enjoy for you. Have a photo contest. Throw an appreciation event. Run a twitter #hashtag promotion that encourages members to tweet about you.

All in the interest of leverage THEIR social influence and personal networks to spread awareness. Referral and social proof acquisition is cheaper than all the other alternatives.


Techcrunch is actually not terribly helpful for entrepreneurs, beyond watching trends and the intermittent insight into certain markets.

This is also a tough question to answer, as the list is long.

Start with quibb.com and Startup Edition. Between them you'll get a curated list of worthwhile articles and early stage founders sharing their experiences.


Without an insider's perspective, my guess is that Facebook did a Series A because it made the most sense for the business at the time. In 2005 a Series A was very different than one now, and you could make the argument that today it would be called another seed round.

That said, Facebook at the time was seeing engagement metrics that blew away expectations. Zuck also had a concrete growth strategy and early backing from serious Valley insiders, so the proverbial rocket ship was launching.

Raising money is equally about cash and value-add, and back then Valley institutional money was both a validation point and significant competitive advantage. People forget that Facebook was entering a hugely competitive market, and winning meant securing healthy resources to grow as fast as possible and to attract the best talent.

Don't consider your A vs Angel decision in the context of Facebook. Consider your fundraising in the context of where your business is and what resources it'll take to win market position.

Institutional investment is best evaluated in light of the value they can bring to scaling a company that's scalable. Their connections, insight, and operating expertise can take an exciting company from startup to "game changer", if that company is truly a game changer. In many cases that company may not be a game changer, but if it's a real business (which many startups aren't, in the VC definition of the word - $100 million+) than the VC industry is where you'll find experts. Up until your business is surely that kind of business, it might make sense to otherwise finance.


The core underlying factor for this is that platforms and behaviors took hold which did two crucial things for commerce, communication, and entertainment driven companies. The first was provide a graph to leverage for quick scale, Zynga on Facebook being the best example. Many others were able to leverage the social graph to quickly grow and you could include Pinterest as a benefactor here, as their core group of early users were already custom to Facebook (and other large niche networks like Etsy).

The second was that the social and mobile web on-boarded a huge swath of new users who were increasingly comfortable doing things online that they previously did offline. Purchases, communication, and self-expression really began to hit a stride because Facebook, Tumblr, and eventually Twitter attracted large audiences that you might consider "mainstream", and the companies that served those markets benefited greatly. As an example, GroupOn delivered deals via email at a time when nearly everyone had moved to web-based email solutions (and had personal emails - not just one for work). Ebay and Amazon had gotten people comfortable with purchasing online, and Groupon pitched them discounts and ease of redemption.

The big, big successes are usually about timing, catching trends that are inevitable. Twitter's an example of nailing both mobile-first and the media's inevitable transition to the web - celebrities, athletes, and big brands were the first core success stories that showed the platforms true potential. It was a product built for right now, launched seven years ago.

For new entrepreneurs, the real win is that not only are more platforms available today than ever before, but more "building blocks" exist today than ever before. You don't have to reinvent the wheel for a lot of the moving parts of a new business, and you have an almost overwhelming number of choices when it comes to finding new ways to reach an interested market.

Anyone interested in thinking about how to reach their intended market is more than welcome to reach out to me on Clarity.


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