How Startups Create Hype (My 5-Step Playbook)
Use this to build a brand people love and grow fast
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This week I met with a founder from our community who was struggling to grow and build hype for their startup, despite having a good product. I realized the advice I shared might be useful for other founders too.
My last startup generated tens of millions of impressions on social media, tons of organic press, and thousands of applications to our programs.
Someone even got a tattoo of our logo and, despite starting during the height of the pandemic, the amount word-of-mouth awareness we generated over 2 years blew even my own expectations out of the water.
We did it with a simple 5-step playbook we developed along the way. Today I’m sharing it, step by step to help you generate hype and grow faster 👇
How Startups Create Hype
This 5-step playbook can be applied at any stage in your startup’s lifecycle. I’ll use a few examples from my last startup’s journey from $0 in revenue through our Series A.
Step 1: Understand Tailwinds (and headwinds)
Generating and sustaining hype usually requires you to be building at the intersection of a few macro trends.
Successful startups are built in emerging markets, and markets emerge and grow due to macro tailwinds in society. So the first step is to make sure you have a best-in-the-world understanding of what larger factors are impacting the market you’re building in.
For example, my last startup was at an intersection where people were:
Starved of community (this was H2 2020, many people were still quarantining and others were just emerging from it)
Questioning the value of a traditional college education
Embracing remote work as a viable alternative to an office
Considering network states and digital nations
Confident the world would need more startups since the pandemic had changed so many things
You probably don’t need to find an intersection that includes quite as many trends as we were able to hit on, but in general more = better. This is important because it creates a more complex and genuinely interesting new view on the world that you can share with people.
If you don’t feel you have a good handle on the tailwinds and headwinds in your market, you can do a few things:
Talk to people in your market and see what they feel is changing, and challenge them with your own ideas to see how they react. Pay attention to their responses.
Closely monitor online discourse (Twitter, other social media sites, mainstream news, newsletters and podcasts, etc.). Find accounts to follow and curate your own feed relentlessly to make sure you’re seeing all sides of the discourse.
Step 2: Identify and Study Common Reactions
User research is generally talked about in the context of making product design decisions. You ask your users about their problems, understand them, and then build features and experiences into your product to solve them.
But user research can also be incredibly useful for growth.