August 30, 2011

Five Ingredients to Social Startup Stardom

I Say, "Always Leap Over It."

Starting up in the social space? Chew on these:

1. Be a Rhinoceros

During the process of co-founding Hopnskip in ’94 – a social classifieds startup, I was fortunate to learn a valuable life lesson from my cofounder, friend and business mentor.

In his words:

“The tertiary education system, societal norms and other influential factors teach us to be a cow. A cow grazes only within its own pastures, feels comfortable in its own territory and consumes the same diet day after day. To succeed we need to be rhinoceroses. A rhinoceros breaks down the fence and grazes beyond its own pastures.”

The rhino takes risks. He has no fear.

2. Recruit a Social Powerhouse

I have touched on this before: Poised between brand and consumer, social marketers understand very well what both parties are searching for and how they need to navigate the digital space.

As a result social marketers are in a unique position to innovate new technologies and based on their experience understand the benefits and limitations of social platforms.

3. Learn to Love Lactic Acid

During extreme exercise such as running, when the rate of demand for energy is high, lactate is produced faster than the ability of the tissues to remove it. The production of lactate results in the burning sensation often felt in active muscles.

Startup life is hard work and it’s not a sprint, but a marathon. Love pushing the limits and when the body says ‘pain’ – be ready to push it a little more.

4. Master Trends

Looking back over the past 10-15 years social technology has followed a number of trends or cycles. From Web 2.0 (such as user generated videos and photos on YouTube and Flickr) to more recently: location-based services, social shopping and mobile photo apps.

Master the cycle of trends and catch the wave where new trends are emerging. For example in 2011 this may include social analytics and social mobile commerce.

5. Entrepreneur a Marketing Strategy

The Internet is a crowded space. Can I speculate that there are more URL’s than people on planet Earth? Before product launch there needs to be a strategy to get eyeballs on the platform, enlist users and gain traction.

Perhaps it should launch on the back of an event like CES or SXSW, or you should deck out a bus and travel the USA sponsoring college parties! Either way it has to be smart, and it has to hit your target.

Are these the top five? What do you think? Which one is most important? Would you add more?



  1. Great points, Michoel - all of them.

    The cow vs. rhinoceros is particularly relevant right now with our society and government debating about jobs and education. I'd love to see an emphasis in education and training of trade skills (engineering, computer science, etc.) paired with training in entrepreneurship much earlier on in the education system. Let's teach kids how to create and build things, and how to turn those creations into a fruitful business.

    I also love "Learn to Love Lactic Acid". Entrepreneurship is indeed a marathon, with several sprints along the way. Treps need to learn how to pace themselves along the way and sprint at the appropriate times.

  2. Love the Rhinoceros point. Reminds me of Seth Godin's purple cow-- you'd notice a purple cow because it's remarkable and worth remarking on. Definitely (to your point) it's a crowded space and there are a lot people trying to graze in the same areas ... so the rhinoceros point works in two ways: first to get people's attention and second to chart new territory, disrupting and ultimately redefining the competitive landscape.
    Good piece, thanks for sharing :)