Why Your Startup’s Image Matters

August 20th, 2015   |    By: Anthony Johnson

Google and Facebook are tech behemoths that offer attractive salaries. But talk to an employee at either, and it’s not about salary; it’s about napping pods and car pickup. Working for a “cool” company is about the culture and the idea, not the traditional images of 401(k)s.

“Cool” means different things to different people, but it’s a safe bet that those looking for a cool startup are eyeing places that offer newfangled perks and jealousy-inducing benefits, such as telecommuting or dog-friendly workplaces. But your business doesn’t have to be cool in the buzz-worthy sense to reap the benefits.

For example, I work in the legal services industry, which might not sound very cool. But my firm, American Injury Attorney Group, went against the grain and reshaped our idea of what a law firm could be by capitalizing on crowdsourcing and the shared economy. “Cool” is another way of saying that a company is a perfect fit for both its market and its employees. Everyone—investors, engineers, fellow entrepreneurs, etc.—wants to get involved in these types of businesses.

How Startups Become Cool

CEOs shape the vision of their business and present that to outside parties. Whether a startup produces lightning-powered surfboards or simple lightbulbs, the CEO must tell the story in a compelling way.

Too many startups focus too little on branding. When Steve Jobs launched FaceTime, he could have focused on fixing data latency and synchronizing video with audio. Instead, he created a conversation about families talking to a father at war, saying goodnight to a baby while on a business trip, or having dinner with a friend across the country. He used branding to shape an idea and become cool.

The CEO has to spread the company’s vision, but branding isn’t all there is to business.

The Cool Factor Isn’t Enough

The cool factor is important in attracting investors and talented employees, but startups must also create solid business foundations to legitimately compete. Cool without substance crumbles, but substance without style goes unnoticed.

Even the hippest venture capitalist will shy away from a startup if it doesn’t meet some threshold of viability—again, it must fit both the market and its employees. After the initial impression, you must convince an investor to bet on your company. If your company doesn’t have a foothold in the market, savvy investors will look elsewhere, so try these methods to prove that your business is destined for success:

  1. Use proven competitor data. Competitors exist in every market. Learn their costs of client acquisition and the lifetime value of new clients, then leverage that data. Combine the viability of the market with your business’s unique vision to explain why your startup is the better investment.
  1. Lead by example. Prospective investors are difficult to woo when you have no prior accomplishments, so many startups turn to crowdfunding projects such as Kickstarter to prove product-market fit.

If a salesman tells someone that unicorn T-shirts are the next big thing in fashion, that person probably won’t believe him. If he shows that same person that he just pre-sold 50,000 purple unicorn T-shirts, he has a stronger case.

  1. Control the conversation. Investors expect entrepreneurs to praise their own businesses, but the words of industry leaders and publications carry more weight. Get TechCrunch or WIRED to declare your business the next big thing, and investors will likely reach the same conclusion.
  1. Establish a social media presence. Startups already understand the power of social media in advertising, but Twitter, Facebook, and other sites are two-way streets. Don’t post at random; establish a presence, and constantly update your approach based on customer responses. Take user feedback into account, and collect data to understand the target audience.

Finally, when building a startup and walking the line between cool and organized, don’t try to invent unnecessarily. Innovation comes in many forms other than brand-new ideas.

Uber’s application of the crowdsourcing approach in the transportation industry is a great example. Take leading practices, apply them to a new industry, and voilà: innovation without invention.

A stale industry or business doesn’t matter. If you combine your cool idea—new or old with a twist—with the right branding and the tips above, you’ll have a clear road map to getting your startup funded.


About the Author

Anthony Johnson is the founder and CEO of Little Rock, Arkansas-based American Injury Attorney Group. American Injury Attorney Group is committed to raising awareness of potential claims for people harmed by dangerous drugs, defective metal-on-metal hip replacement devices, semi truck accidents, product recalls and other personal injury cases caused by the negligence or fault of another. Prior to becoming an attorney, Anthony worked in SEO and web development, Internet startups and finance.


About the Author

Anthony Johnson

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