Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #28
Revealing the secret to fundraising success, entrepreneurial goal-setting, and a conversation with the world's first blogger
I began teaching social marketing at Duke five years ago. The class had 16 seats and I couldn’t fill it. Fast forward to today, and the class has 40 students with another dozen students on the waitlist. While I’d love to think the growth of the class is a reflection of my superior pedagogical skillset, that’s not the reason. Instead, lots of budding entrepreneurs see an opportunity in becoming social media famous, and they want to know how to do it. Of course, that wasn’t always the case…
I had an opportunity to speak with Justin Hall, the man widely regarded as the world’s first personal blogger and online influencer. He shares his experiences on this week’s episode of Web Masters. It’s a fascinating story that helps explain the evolution of social media from its earliest days to now. Spoiler alert: In 1995, people didn’t idolize online influencers. Instead, they were viewed as weird and crazy.
Also in this issue, I’ve got an article about fundraising success you won’t want to miss. And I take a deep dive into effective startup launch strategies. AND… there’s even a bonus article! All for the same low price of FREE.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Respond to this email or find me on Twitter, and let’s chat!
If you want to be successful at fundraising, you’ll don’t want to miss this article. Just be sure to read passed the second paragraph…
The Virtual Tour Guide Who Pioneered Personal Blogging
These days, kids grow up sharing everything about their personal lives in an effort to become Instagram influencers and TikTok famous. They don't know it, but their dreams of social media stardom were pioneered in the mid 1990s by a teenager who wasn't looking for celebrity status. His name was Justin Hall, and sharing his personal story online was, for him, less about notoriety and more a type of therapy.
Listen to his story on Web Masters:
…or search “Web Masters” wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
Every entrepreneur faces challenging choices, but making the decision doesn’t have to be hard. All you have to do is one thing at the very beginning of your startup journey.
When building startups, you can't just create a product and hope for the best. You have to find the right timing -- and market -- to achieve a successful launch.
Office Hours Q&A
In your Medium article “The Most Important Fundraising Secret of Every Successful Entrepreneur” you wrote:
“Successful entrepreneurs don’t raise lots of money and then go build awesome companies. It’s the opposite. Successful entrepreneurs build awesome companies and then they go raise lots of money to help them grow faster.”
I can understand that strategy for a lot of companies. But what if I’m building a technology that takes tons of money just to create it before I can get any customers? For example, what if I’m trying to build rockets? Or what if I’m creating a cancer treatment that needs years of R&D and lab development work? In that scenario, is it OK to take money first?
I’m going to be a bit controversial with my answer here, but, in the scenarios you’re describing, you’re not being an entrepreneur. You’re being an innovator or an inventor or a researcher or something more along those lines.
Lots of people conflate entrepreneurship with building stuff (usually, but not always, new types of technologies). But that’s not what entrepreneurs should be doing. In an ideal world, entrepreneurs don’t build. Instead, entrepreneurs bring things to market.
To be fair, the world is rarely ideal, and, as a result, entrepreneurs often do have to build things. For example, when I was creating my last company, I had to write the initial software. But that wasn’t because I wanted to write the software. I did it because we needed software, someone had to create it, and our limited resources meant it was better for me to do the coding than hire someone else.
In the cases you’ve described -- building rockets and treating cancer -- those kinds of technological developments aren’t things entrepreneurs would typically fundraise for, nor are they things venture capitalists would fund. After all, venture capitalists aren’t in the business of funding R&D. They’re in the business of helping scale businesses so they become profitable. In other words, you wouldn’t be fundraising from VCs until you’ve got some sort of company built around whatever technology you’ve developed.
As for the technologies themselves -- things like rockets and cancer treatments -- those are the kinds of things that get developed in research labs. Yes, they require funding, but usually the funding comes from the parent organization, government grants, philanthropy, or things like that. Once the technology has matured to a point that a business can be built around it, that’s when it crosses into the VC realm of funding.
Also worth noting is that the researchers developing sophisticated new technologies are also rarely the entrepreneurs bringing them to market. That’s not to suggest it doesn’t occasionally happen. However, for the most part, developing cures for cancer and building new rocket technologies take lots and lots of time. The work doesn’t leave much time for things like marketing and customer acquisition. This is why I argue entrepreneurs should avoid building technologies. Let the innovators/inventors/researchers build, and let the entrepreneurs commercialize.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!