My real background -- what I did for a living for a decade before I started my first company -- was journalism. And then my first company was pretty tied to the news; it operated inside a TV station so I worked in that environment every day for five years.
So the whole notion of PR is second nature to me.
Anyone who's read any of this blog could probably figure out where I stand on the notion of hiring a PR agency. But it didn't really occur to be to write about it here until I saw this post in Guy Kawasaki's blog:
The writer, Glenn Kelman, goes on to give 10 reasons that you should not hire a PR agency. I have plenty of friends in PR, and I even help in a small way with the PRJobsList here in Denver.
That said, I have to tell you that if my current company gets to $100M in sales, we still won't hire an agency.
Why? The few shining examples in which agencies do a good job are outweighed by the 90 percent that do a job that could easily be done in-house, or the 5 percent that make things worse. This campaign that seems to be in favor of the Unabomber is the latest in a long line of examples.
So read that list, every one of his 10 points is exactly right. Nothing bummed me out as a reporter more than doing a story that was doing the bidding of a flak. Make a reporter's day, and just give him or her a call. You'll both love it.
Times are good, money is flowing, and Silicon Valley sucks.
I don’t know what it is, but the same thing happened in the late nineties before the bubble burst. Lots of startups got funded that made no sense but people got excited anyway. A unique, beautiful and well executed idea was not a story worth talking about until that first round of big, eye-popping capital. People become more anxious, and more likely to snap at someone in anger or jealousy. Rumor mongering spikes, and a crucial balance is lost. It’s no longer about beautiful products and genius developers. It’s about the money and the status, and hot PR chicks and marketing departments.
I wasn't in the valley for the first one, but started MyTrafficNews by bootstrapping, and the whole dot-bomb thing actually helped us, made it possible for me to afford developers.
Now it's a bit nutso, and I am actually out looking for investors, but I'm not doing it in the midst of the insanity. I love my current startup, love the people I work with, I even love the customers -- the real live paying customers who depend on us for the tools they use every day.
I think that's the only way to avoid not only crashing when the bubble pops, but to have fun along the way.
So, the big "hits" of the VC world do very well, but after that they have not been doing well at all. This is important to note in this blog, because there may be some people who think they could self-finance a startup, but you think you have as a backup plan of going to a small VC firm and getting an investment.
If your goal is just to get back what you put into the business, I guess that's OK. If your goal is to make your company something that really does change the world, well, then you are in trouble.
If you've got a big expensive idea, position it so that you can get one of the biggest and best VCs in the country to buy in. Go big or go home.
If you've got a big idea that can be created for a lot less money and funded significantly by sales, that's awesome. That's why we're here. But don't have some small VC as your backup plan. Don't move up to the curve part of the tail, that's a recipe for heartbreak. You may need to move a little to the left on the curve, up to an Angel, but there are lots of good Angels out there.
Introspection for a blog is a good thing, and will always be part of any good blog. Old media doesn't do as much of that, they don't have to wonder what is their core purpose -- they know that their job is to deliver advertising. The good ones try to reach that goal by being interesting, etc., but that's not why they exist.
(That said, it's clear that the big papers will soon be much like sports teams, owned by people with oversized egos. The two best examples are David Geffen trying to buy the LA Times and now Rupert trying to buy the Wall St. Journal. Warren Buffett and I spotted this trend at the same time!)
A blog is different. Well, it is for all those people who aren't so nefarious as to get into pay-per-post, etc.
I've seen two great bits of introblogtion recently from two of the best.