Be The First

So many founders want to be the next Steve Jobs.

So many startups want to be the next Facebook.

Every VC is hunting for the next Uber.

Are these worthy aspirations?

Why are we so fixated on following in someone else’s path, rather than carving our own?

Instead of trying to be the next anything, focus on being the first you.

The Key Difference That Makes One Startup Successful While Thousands Of Others Fail

It’s no secret that the vast majority of startups fail. But what’s so special about the precious few that succeed? What makes them gain so much traction and scale so quickly while other entrepreneurs just spin their wheels and ultimately fail?

On our Submit Your Startup page on VentureBreak, one of our tips for getting noticed is to “be a purple cow.” This links to Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable—a must-read for entrepreneurs.

I could stop here and just tell you to read the book, but a few people have asked for clarification, so I’d like to explain why I think it’s so important to “be a purple cow.”

I get hundreds of emails a week from entrepreneurs who want me to write about their startups. After a few years of doing what I do, you start to see the same things over and over again. Things that were once interesting start to become background noise because everyone is doing it.

The startups that I actually find interesting enough to write about are those that a) do something radically different than anything I’ve seen before, or b) tell an interesting story that I’ve never heard before. Bonus points if they do both.

The same thought process takes place regardless of whether you’re looking for press, investors, or customers.

Seth Godin articulates it quite well:

When my family and I were driving through France a few years ago, we were enchanted by the hundreds of storybook cows grazing on picturesque pastures right next to the highway. For dozens of kilometers, we all gazed out the window, marveling about how beautiful everything was.

Then within twenty minutes, we started ignoring the cows. The new cows were just like the old cows, and what once was amazing was now common. Worse than common. It was boring.

Cows, after you’ve seen them for a while, are boring. They may be perfect cows, attractive cows, cows with great personalities, cows lit by beautiful light, but they’re still boring.

A Purple Cow, though. Now that would be interesting. (For a while.)

You can apply any number of analogies to this concept, but the point is that you have to be different. Don’t be just another cow grazing on the pasture. Be a purple cow.

You can get a copy of Purple Cow by Seth Godin here.

You Don’t Need A PR Firm

If you’ve ever worked with me, you know I hate talking to PR people. I always ask to talk to founders. When you hand your story off to someone else, it immediately becomes less interesting.

Seriously—I’ve rejected so many stories from PR people that could’ve been fascinating if told by the CEO.

Email is a problem for everyone. You probably spend at least an hour a day managing your email, right? Now imagine being pitched by hundreds of PR people daily, many of whom just send a press release and expect you to rewrite it and call it a “story.”

Want your company to stand out in my crowded inbox? Then pitch me yourself.

These thoughts were inspired by a fantastic post on Fast Company today: Why Your Startup Shouldn’t Hire A PR Firm

Give it a read before you pay someone to make you less interesting.