In the early 2000s a startup CEO handed me a magazine and said that he wanted to be in that publication. That’s all he wanted. That’s all he wanted to conquer. There was no plan. No map. Just a finger pointing CEO, who I might add had a big grin on his face. I said no problem.
I had no map either. But, what I did have was a view of the terrain. I knew what it would take, which valleys we would need to cross to get there. And, I knew that he had the team to make it happen. To him it may have felt like jumping across the pond to land on his destination. But, to me, it was a treasure hunt. Here’s how it happened.
1. The Vetting – There was one section in this publication that covered companies like his. There were certain requirements, of course, to get “coverage”. His company met almost all of them. The company had to be based in the San Francisco Bay Area, yes. Had to be a certain size, yes. Was in a position of innovation, or imminent “aha,” almost yes. Lastly, could show the reporter what the startup was creating, um, no.
2. The Getup – Call it “Growth Hacking” or whatever you want, but to come up with the “um, no” we had to show the reporter what could be if A and B went into C when none of that really existed, yet. Thankfully, we were working with a creative reporter – who had a bunch of experience in this space – and didn’t struggle to imagine what was then the impossible, after we presented.
3. The Show – The server room became the conference room. We hosted the reporter in an area that he had to climb into. There were lengthy colored wires everywhere. Lights were flashing and pieces of the equipment were purposely left on the table. I remember one of the reporter’s first questions was, what do we have here? An idea.
4. The Truth – We told him we had nothing. The reporter was shocked, reserved, I wasn’t sure if he was peeved. Based upon the combined experience of the technologists in the room, it was not implausible, we explained, that if A and B went into C, then a new kind of platform could exist that would save companies millions of dollars and people hundreds hours to distribute complex information across networks. We literally laid out a schematic – which was propriety BTW – to show him how this could work. He left impressed - his words.
A week later the phone rang. The reporter said he liked what he saw and was planning to feature the company in his startup section. The combined events across the terrain led us to the CEO’s goal. He got into the publication. This is only one example of how exciting it is to help get startups into their target publications. For this company, the article led to an invitation to present to a bank, and a subsequent round of financing!