Startups.co: New Site, New Narrative

Today isn't just about our new site launch – it's about why we launched it.

May 16th, 2016   |    By: Wil Schroter

Today isn’t just about our new site launch – it’s about why we launched it. For those of you that have been following our story for the past few years, you know that we’ve grown our startup platform quite a bit, helping over a million startups get from idea to launch.

Most of what you’ve seen has focused on our products, whether it’s Fundable for raising capital, Clarity.fm for finding mentors, or Launchrock for acquiring customers.

But behind the scenes, we’ve been working on something far bigger: our community.

Bringing the startup community together has always been our greatest goal. This site launch has given us the opportunity to make it happen, and offer our vision for a new voice and a fresh narrative to the startup journey.

More importantly, it creates the foundation with which we intend to build a global community of startups who can truly help each other grow.

In order to understand just how important we believe this new community to be, it’s important to understand why we think the current state of the “startup narrative” is so broken, and how we can start to build a community around much different goals.

TL;DR: We think startups need a new narrative centered around authenticity and business fundamentals. We’re building a community for Founders who share this narrative.

Startups Need a New Narrative

The startup community needs a new narrative – badly.

Our world has been largely defined by rampant mythology. We’re led to believe that ideas alone get funding and that those then magically become the next Facebook.

The mythological story of The Social Network is just that – it’s a myth. It’s bullshit.

While that myth has inspired many to go start their own startups (something we love) it’s also led countless startups off of a cliff Wyle E. Coyote style.

Why?

Because what we’re reading about in these pop culture myths are rarely the true story of entrepreneurship. They’re the auto-tuned version. They’re the version told by people who are almost never the Founders themselves.

In a world that’s become defined by big funding and big exits, we’ve lost touch with the stuff that matters: building products we love at companies that matter to the people that work there.

The most popular stories are also the biggest successes. Building a billion dollar company puts you on magazine covers. Building a life-changing million dollar company doesn’t – even if those are the stories that are most relevant to most entrepreneurs.

Not surprisingly, the vast amount of insight and coverage we get on how startups are created is driven by incredible hits with improbable stories. Those stories are a ton of fun to read, but over time they begin to define a narrative among startups that’s misleading at best – and destructive at worst.

This narrative has led Founders to start asking some of the wrong questions. It’s become more fashionable to ask “How much money have you raised?” than “Have you become profitable?”  It’s more valuable to ask “What do VCs think of your business?” than “What do customers think of your product?”

In a world that’s become defined by big funding and big exits, we’ve lost touch with the stuff that matters: building products we love at companies that matter to the people who work there.

As Founders, we need to recalibrate. We need to start focusing on stuff that matters to Founders, not the outside world. We need a new narrative.

Quote from David Heinemeier Hansson, Co-Founder of Basecamp

The New Startup Narrative:
Build Stuff That Matters (To You)

Somewhere along the way, the idea of starting a company got perverted from an entrepreneur’s dream of pursuing their own path to the media’s fascination with growth at all costs. We lost our way, and with that, things got fake and misguided.

We need to recalibrate our narrative to focus on building stuff that matters to Founders, not to everyone else. We need to stop chasing media expectations and investor valuations and focus on why we started our own businesses to begin with.

We want to celebrate the journey as much as the big finish.

The funny thing about this new startup narrative is: it’s not new.

At Startups.co we’ve been talking about this same narrative for a long time. We’ve watched over a million companies join our platform, and in the process we’ve had thousands of honest conversations with startup Founders in every industry across the world.  

It’s not just us. We’re seeing the same pent-up frustration that comes with being misled toward a broken narrative in the hearts and minds of Founders everywhere.

We’re taking this opportunity to build a new startup narrative around values that matter to us as Founders – and that we believe our Startups.co community will embrace as well.  

So what are the values that we want to build on? What are the ideas that we want to lift up and high five and say “Hell, yeah!” every time we see them in action?

Get Back to the Fundamentals. Let’s spend less time talking about funding rounds and fake metrics, and more time talking about why customers are going to go love our product. Let’s talk about how we can get to break even so we can be around long enough to see our big vision through.

Be Authentic. Be Honest. Be Real. None of us are “killing it.”  We’re all terrified and this shit is scary. And that’s OK. Instead of chest-pounding about our fearless success, let’s dig into the big things that keep us up at night – and the little things that bring us insane amounts of joy.  

Align with Our Passions. Let’s build businesses we really personally give a damn about. Let’s celebrate people who are aligning their life’s work with the things that they get to do every day.

Help Each Other. No one understands Founders like Founders.  Let’s open up to each other and help one another through this crazy journey. Let’s send the trolls and the haters packing. Let’s high five the crap out of each other around things that no one else would care about or understand.  

Make Our Health a Priority. Let’s find ways to try to build things we’re passionate about without destroying ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally in the process. Let’s find ways to build creative startup cultures that reward and support teams instead of destroy them.

Redefine What Success Means. Let’s re-align our vision for success with goals that matter to the Founders themselves, not investors, the press, or the public markets. Let’s make personal happiness something to brag about. Let’s talk about living on your own terms.

We want to build a community of startup nerds like us who genuinely want to see each other succeed. We want to talk about the hard stuff that everyone else sweeps under the rug. We want to celebrate the journey as much as the big finish.

Quote from Matt Mullenweg, Founder and CEO of WordPress

This is How We Do It

To help drive this new narrative, we’ve launched the Startups.co site as a home for our content, and a place where the Founder community can come together and talk about the ideas that matter to them.

I’d love to tell you that we spent many months doing user testing, focus groups and mass amounts of research to determine exactly what this new home should be.

We did none of that. We simply built the bar we’ve been dying to drink at.

We simply built the bar we’ve been dying to drink at.

We’ve been thinking about this nonstop for nearly a decade, so what you’re seeing today is a culmination of a lot of thought and effort (and patience. So, so, so much patience).

And frankly, the timing couldn’t be better: with the implosion of “unicorn culture” in our midst and the sobering of the startup community around an investor’s nuclear winter, people are genuinely looking for a place where people are sane again.

We’ve started off by tackling four different areas that were important to us: Stories, Education, Answers, and Reviews.

Stories

The team at Startups.co is ridiculously Founder-focused, and we’ve designed our content to reflect that. The articles you’ll see on Startups.co are either by Founders themselves or strictly about Founders, the things they’re building, and the raw emotions you experience in the startup process. We want our coverage of their issues to be from the Founders’ point of view, not a reporter’s or an analyst’s.

Our lead story with David Heinemeier Hansson of Basecamp (“Build a Kick Ass Startup – On Your Own Terms”) is a great example of how we see our coverage of startups and Founders playing out: raw, real, and focused on their voice.

If you love the DHH story, you’ll love more of what’s to come.  It embodies exactly how we want to have conversations with startups.

Education

We believe startup education is broken in many ways. It’s often taught by people who have never started a company, or driven by ulterior motives like “raise money and grow quickly so you can get us a return!”  

We think startup education should be lead by the Founders themselves, those that have lived the stories they are teaching you from.  

Earlier this year we acquired the online Startup University Zana.io, which is essentially Khan Academy for Startups. Zana brought us over 600 in-depth, high quality videos about everything from customer acquisition to how to build a strong culture.

More importantly, they are lessons taught by some of the smartest people in Startupland – folks who have lived these lessons firsthand.

When Neil Patel talks about SEO we listen.  

When Matt Mullenweg from WordPress talks about managing growth, we listen.

When Hiten Shah talks about sales funnel optimization, we fall asleep at our desk (just kidding Hiten!).

Instead of keeping this locked behind the doors of startup incubators and pricey seminars, we’re making it available to startups around the world, totally free.

Answers

Over a year ago we acquired Clarity.fm, the largest community of startup mentors and experts. One of the greatest assets that has come out of Clarity is the Answers forum.

To date over 12,000 high quality answers have been provided by thousands of startup experts all around the world. Think of it like a super-curated version of Quora that’s totally focused on the needs of startups.

We’ve incorporated the Answers forums into Startups.co so that any Founder can have access to the best experts and mentors on any topic.

Looking for advice on how to move forward with a social enterprise and keep it profitable? Head to Answers.

Unsure which marketing method is the best fit for your business? Check out Answers.

Our hope is that by exposing this forum to an even larger audience, we can truly start bringing our community together to help each other. It’s worked wonderfully on Clarity and we think it’ll make a wonderful addition on Startups.co.

Reviews

Around the same time as Clarity, we acquired a company called KillerStartups.com. KillerStartups had been reviewing startups and digging into their back stories for over a decade, building a corpus of nearly 100,000 startup reviews. We found that the reviews that resonated most with us included the back stories of how the products came to be – the origin stories so to speak.

We decided that we wanted a section dedicated to telling those origin stories and the journey that entrepreneurs followed to create those companies. You’ll hear from Miguel Madrid, who’s delivering thousands of pairs of the world’s most comfortable underwear – and handling all the customer service himself. But here’s the best part: instead of just talking about the products, you’ll learn how and why those products came to be from the people that make them.

Join us!

The community here only truly works if we get everyone’s voice in the conversation, especially yours.  

We’d love to see you help some Founders out with Answers. Maybe you’d like to spend some time (virtually) sitting across from the Experts in our university. Or maybe you’ve got your own story you’ve been dying to tell – let us know.  

We want to provide a place where Founders can feel included, and we’d love to have you spend time with us.

About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual.  He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement).  After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do.  He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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