From the day your company gets on the radar of the tech echo chamber your trajectory is studied and compared. There is a well established pace of vanity metrics and funding news that you need to be feeding the press to be considered hot. Being “hot” is not just nice for the ego but critical for attracting and retaining the best talent and attracting top VCs.
Startups now live in a world of spectacular growth at all costs. All the founders I spoke to this week had stories of over hiring, breaking the budget on marketing, focusing on cheap virals rather than building real utility and every other unnatural act that might help them ride the hype cycle a little longer.
Founders and CEOs are not innocent victims in all this. When you raise massive rounds of funding at huge valuations you sign up for this pressure. Big rounds of funding and skyrocketing vanity metrics are often just signs that there might be a great business bubbling below the surface. It doesn’t mean things are actually figured out. Instead we power through, afraid to show an ounce of doubt to our team, our investors, or the press. For many of us this pressure makes it taboo to tell the truth about how our startups are really doing until it’s too late.
(1) Reminds me of this: “Yipit’s lofty expectations and subsequent disappointment… were the result of the powerful and potentially detrimental psychological effect of valuing media feedback and artificial “buzz” over the only kind of feedback that actually matters: The kind that comes from users.”
(2) “A company should not get addicted to being “shiny”, because “shiny” does not last.” – Jeff Bezos
(3) Cf. Conflicts of interest between startups and VCs.