You tend to have a soft spot for places you first got press when you’re in a startup.
Sure, press isnt everything and it won’t make your startup truly successful but in the last 2.5 years at Planwise, getting press has played a key role in just about every major milestone. Like it or hate there is something that happens when someone else says something about you that you’ve been saying for ages.
When you first get some press, especially when you’re pre-revenue, have a pre-MVP product or don’t come from a ‘star-studded’ team you know that publication has gone out on a limb a bit.
In early 2012, after having over 6 months of twitter conversations with a couple of the editors of sprouter.com, we were stoked and surprised when they suggested they’d like to cover us for their January ‘Hot Startups’ email, that went out to about 65,000 people from memory.
Sprouter was a place where aspiring entrepreneurs could table questions to some amazingly successful people in startup land. The email, that came out weekly, featured 4 companies hand picked by the team.
We had just launched a private beta of Planwise, and needed enough people to come through it to confirm our belief that people, given easy, fast and self-service tools to model their financial decisions, would not only like them but would use them.
The coverage we got in sprouter.com (which was being run by the same team who ran betakit.com) brought us hundreds of people over a 3 – 4 day window that pushed us into an easy 500+ person private beta. We got clear and conclusive data, tons of new personal relationships and could now talk with authority to our potential investors for our first seed round (which then closed about 8 weeks later).
To say the single feature in Sprouter made all the difference would be an understatement akin to saying ‘Elvis could hold a tune’
Going forward, as sprouter started to take a backseat, we developed the relationship with betakit (who also covered our seed funding). The publication stood alone for us as one who were prepared to focus on the startups, the emerging tech, the unknowns and unprovens. It had a beautiful grassroots feel about it, while having a depth of insight and coverage on the larger events that meant you could really get a full update on the scene and learn about a ton of new teams & ventures by spending an hour in there.
A few months ago there was a move, along with a management change, to refocus Betakit. Not to take away from their early stage ethos, but instead to focus this attention purely on the Canadian startup scene. It’s a clearly stated objective that I can understand the intention of, but I think it might actually do them and the Canadian startup scene they are looking to support, a dis-service. Well, perhaps not a dis-service, but simply limit them.
To make a point with a sweeping generalization, people in tech are people of the world. I’m not interested in a specific regional focus, the problems we’re trying to solve and the companies & people we solve them for (should) exist everywhere.
When the first banner I read says ‘Canadian Startup News’ I’m inclined not to read too much further. My response would be no different if it was ‘Silicon Valley startup news’ or Tel Aviv tech news’ (or Perth where I”m from)
When it comes from a team, brand & publication that stood strongly for the startup scene and by bravely covering emerging, unknown teams at times other than when they were just raising money, wherever they came from, I can’t help but think if you dropped the stated intention, appealed to a broader audience and just covered more Canadian companies by virtue of your proximity to them (physically, emotionally & relationship-wise) .. when you do cover them and help them get visibility, users, learning and even funding, you will have done more for them.