Why Startups Need Visibility and Why This Matters Now
To say that the world feels different right now is an understatement. We’re finding ourselves at a peculiar moment in history: reckoning with years of racial inequality, while dealing with a global health crisis. The pandemic seems to have exacerbated and brought to light many social divides and injustices, forcing us to wake up and face reality.
Through all of this, we have seen businesses and private sector leaders step in to provide guidance: Retail companies mandate that customers wear masks in their stores, and multiple tech CEOs and VCs have issued statements condemning racism and committing to improve their diversity statistics. Yet, when it comes to increasing diversity in tech, the best way forward was summarized in a hashtag: #HireOrWire, which refers to hiring underrepresented candidates and/or investing in underrepresented entrepreneurs. The call to fund more underrepresented startup founders was significant because it cast the spotlight on a group that has been less visible in the startup community. The fact that African-American founders receive only 2 percent of VC funding is a byproduct of many different factors, but lack of visibility is certainly one of them.
What I mean by visibility is the type of exposure that lends external credibility to someone and helps them establish themselves as a thought leader in a specific field. Examples include television and podcast appearances, newspaper articles, speaking at industry conferences and landing on the cover of a business magazine. These are things that cannot be bought, but can certainly elevate a company’s profile and lead to faster growth. However, most companies don’t seem to pay a lot of attention to visibility, especially in the early days of building a business. Here’s why exposure matters and should not be put on the back burner.
More Exposure = More Customers
Recently, one of our customers mentioned that speaking at an industry event resulted in a number of leads for his business. Sharing your expertise and point of view is instrumental when it comes to attracting new customers. You have a solution to a problem they’re facing, and you might bring the new perspective they need. Talking about your personal experiences with the problem, the story behind the solution and how your company will influence the future of the industry immediately establishes you as an expert, which makes customers more likely to approach you. The more you talk about what you do, the easier it will be for new customers to find you. The medium doesn’t matter: events, podcasts and digital publications all work well.
Visibility Can Help You Raise Funding
If your company is gearing up for fundraising, establishing credibility with potential investors is crucial before they even meet you. Having had your story published in media outlets lends you an aura of expertise and shows that your business has received recognition from impartial third parties. Similarly, if you’ve been asked to speak at a conference or received an award, this adds to the validity of your business and creates a strong first impression for investors. At the end of the day, they want to fund people who have deep knowledge and unique insights of a space, and these kinds of events can confirm that for them. Moreover, the exposure positions your startup as hot, potentially driving FOMO that gets the deal done faster.
Recruiting High-Caliber Talent Becomes Easier
Finding the right candidates for your team is never easy. It involves sifting through many resumes, (sometimes disappointing) screening calls and — if you already have a recruiting team — a lot of cold outreach. Attracting the right talent is especially challenging if candidates have never heard about your company. The more visible and well-known your business is, the more people will want to work with you. Having a strong employer brand is one of the most underutilized hiring tactics, but it can do wonders for your business. High performers are attracted to companies with a compelling mission. Increasing the visibility of your company can put you on their radar and increase the odds of them joining your team.
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Visibility is a powerful medium that can help any company build a powerful brand that attracts customers, employees and potential investors. When leveraged well, it can significantly accelerate growth and help companies turn their vision into reality faster. When companies view exposure as an essential part of their growth strategy and start investing in it as soon as they enter the market — by participating in local events, engaging and sharing their authentic stories on social media and podcasts — they become more recognizable, their brand is strengthened and their growth trajectory accelerated. This can be especially powerful for founders from underrepresented backgrounds who generally tend to receive less attention. Channelled this way, visibility can be used as an equalizer that uplifts talented founders from unconventional backgrounds, opens up opportunities for them and ultimately levels the playing field.