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In an excerpt from the book Startup Mixology, entrepreneur Jason Roberts coined the expression “luck surface area” where the more you communicate your story and expertise, the higher the likelihood of expanding and cultivating relationships that lead to meeting the right people.
For a founder, if they can expand their network and build a strong personal brand, it could be a game changer in their go-to-market strategy and effort to attract investors.
“Building relationships requires repeated contact online and offline. Every person you meet or interact with could be the next great big supporter, long-term customer, investor or maybe a friend,” wrote Startup Mixology author and Tech.Co CEO Frank Gruber .
TK Kuegler, managing partner and cofounder of Wasabi Ventures, said that becoming a domain expert in one’s industry or something you are passionate about is an attractive quality in a founder.
“With personal brands, the most important thing is domain expertise and you only want to build a brand about something you care about,” Kuegler said.
Kuegler shared that after taking a meeting with a startup focused around the music business, he researched the team and discovered that the founder had a strong online personal brand as illustrated by his consistent engagement, had a loyal following and was viewed as an expert for his knowledge in a particular genre. For Wasabi Ventures, the founder’s brand presence was an asset.
“Your brand has to echo the advantages you are trying to offer and that is pretty valuable if you are going to make a bet on [a company],” Kuegler said.
Encouraging founders to build a personal brand has become a larger leadership requirement for startups within an investor’s portfolio.
At Wasabi Ventures Academy, personal branding is a skill set they’ve added into their curriculum.
“We spend a lot of time with how to become a domain expert. It’s important to know how to leverage the modern world of social media, other’s social media in the industry and your own personal network in your vertical,” Kuegler said.
Tim Sullivan, CEO and cofounder of Oceanic Partners, said that founders who have a strong personal brand can help their company’s go-to-market strategy and generate revenue early on.
“Any effort that a company can make to market themselves – branding of a founder or product marketing – is all good. Through the branding effort of a founder, the startup can prime the audience before they release the product or service, create a feedback mechanism that can save a founder a lot of time and money, and initiate early revenue,” Sullivan said.
Investors also have their eyes on how a founder nurtures their brand, manages their social media posts, and whether they contribute online in a meaningful way.
“Providing meaningful and differentiated content is encouraged. Whereas filling the Internet with fluff wastes people’s time. [Also,] if your brand presence is not maintained and cared for then it will lose its appeal,” Sullivan said.
Social media was mentioned as one of the top five focal points for an investor’s due diligence process. While founders might believe that having a large social presence and followers is great, the real value comes from being viewed as an expert within one’s audience.
“It doesn’t matter if you have a ton of followers, if they don’t think of you as an influencer, then you can’t leverage that network for causes or marketing,” Kuegler said.
Your mom might have told you there’s only one chance to make a good first impression. Through online and social media engagement, there are many more first time encounters with investors, influencers and potential customers.
“With social media there are millions of opportunities for first impressions and everything has to be tight and on point,” Sullivan said.
When you hear that little voice in your head that says to not post something, listen to it.
“I talk consistently about lifestyle overshare. Your personal life is your personal life. I suggest to pause one second before you hit send – you might not make a stupid decision on social media,” Kuegler said.