Editor’s note: On Monday “a new idea”:http://www.foundread.com/idea/view/11178#content_11180 was posted to Found|READ about a seemingly progressive way of testing a startup’s readindess to go public. The startup is called TrialIPO, and the idea gave a pat description of what the startup aims to do one day — it won’t launch until 2008. The posted “idea” offered little in terms of what potential foundners’ lessons might be gained from a story about TrialIPO (e.g. how the founders came to this business plan or strategy; what they are struggling with in terms of making it fly). Indeed the founders were not even identified. I found them on my own, only to recieve what appears to have been a pre-written, equally boiler plate “founders’ tale” about TrialIPO that, again, did more to laud the would-be company, but prompted more questions that it answered about its founders and what motivates them.
Adam is one of our most conscientious, and prolific, contributors. By the time I’d figure out that this was probably a publicity scam, Adam had already investigated the raft of carbon-copy-like comments pleading for a feature on TrialIPO (always with lots of exclamatory punctuation). After talking with Adam about it, we decided most of them are fake, posted by friends of TrialIPO who want their would-be gig promoted now, not when it actually has something to offer us in terms of business lessons or founders’ experience.
*This is not what Found|READ is about.* Our site is about sharing; about founders helping themselves by helping each other. TrialIPO’s spammers seemed disinterested in this proposition. We take it as confirmation of the quality of our community that it took 5 months for someone to abuse the site in this way, but Adam and I decided we should post about this anyway to ward off future incidents. And Adam also offers a nice code of conduct for us all to consider going forward. As always — comments are most welcome. Carleen.
After sitting on the fence, I can no longer continue to watch this farce. Is it me or does the idea being pushed this week on a new startup called TrialIPO seem less an authentic attempt at contributing to Found|READ, and more like a cheap marketing ploy? It seems someone submitted an “idea about a startup” to the site and then arranged for a swarm of “really interested and enthusiastic people” to sit and write about how cool the startup and or how they’re waiting for the article on on TrialIPO to appear on GigaOM or Found|READ. (I suspect these comments are from friends of the solicitor.) Trouble is, we don’t get much information, if any, about TrialIPO from the idea, or about the people behind it, or what lesson either the startup or its founders has to offer the Found|READ community. (Linking through to the TrialIPO site isn’t much help, either.) I noticed that most of the comments are posted in chunks, at the same time, from people with only first initials but no complete names. Of course none of them has a Found|READ identity/bio. All of which suggests to me, and Carleen, that whomever submitted this “idea” doesn’t read the site. Real participants in this community know that Found||READ isn’t about pimping companies, its about sharing founders’ experiences.
*So whoever is behind this, let me give you some advice, since I care about this community and since I do believe you missed the concept of the site.*
If you wish to get some coverage for your startup, submit your business pitch to TechCrunch or GigaOM or, when you get funding, to VentureBeat, and ask for a review. If it were up to me, you could get 56 people to requesting a Found|READ post on how great TrialIPO’s business proposition is, and I will still not be interested to read it, because:
*a)* in Found|READ I’m looking for personal stories, tips and ideas from fellow-entrepreneurs’ own experiences.
*b)* your shallow marketing pitch, as submitted, doesn’t add anything personal, and therefore, nothing of value to the community of founders here. And yes, the community is more than 16 people.
So next I offer my suggestions for a *Preferred Code of Conduct on Found|READ.* Comments, from fellow-founders, are welcome. (Let’s do this together.)
*1) _Build an identity_* Try to post a bio and a picture, credibility is something you will need to work very hard on, it is rewarding at the end. Believe me, i’m experiencing it everyday.
*2) _Contribute_* Never just market (or in this case ‘over-market’) you idea or startup. The relationship on Found|READ is a 2-way relationship. *You need to give to other founders–tips or personal stories–and then they will embrace you.* Comment on stories and fire up debate. The more you will do that, the more you’ll build credibility and trust around you. Isn’t business based on trust?
*3) _Market yourself, not your startup_* How? Via the bio. That is the place where you should put links about who you are.: What you do; Where you’ve worked; This will build your credibility. The more relevant and interesting the information about you is, the more leads you will get from your bio. A click on your startup link after reading your bio is worth much more than 100 clicks on your link based on a cheap, scripted, and therefore uninteresting comment. *This is a question of substance over spam; quality over quantity.* Whoever reads your bio really wants to know about you and read about your startup.
*4) _Comment Comment. Comment._* The only way to get the attention of other users is to contribute to the community. Fire up debate. Give another angle of a story. Ask questions. Those are all valuable contribution and they help building a rich conversation.
The way I see it, there was no interaction on this “idea” and I didnt get any real value from the 16 people commenting here (apart the fact they are advertising the fact that they really, really want to see an article of this startup — but why? what is it about TrialIPO that has them so fired up? There is no context, so we don’t know. And the comments are way too similar which is what made us suspicious in the first place).
*5) _Submit original content_* Again this means your own ideas and personal stories, or something you’ve read elsewhere that can be leveraged specifically but your own supplementary post to this community (like book recommendations; a neat post from Marc Andreessen’s blog, etc.). Sometimes you will find out that catching the eye of the editor is much more easy while submitting an original idea. It doesn’t take 16 people to write a story. In fact many stories were written either after an original comment on one of the story were made or after submitting an idea which only 2 or 3 people requested to read. At the end of the day, the editor of Found|READ decides whats interesting or what isn’t — based on the quality and relevance of your idea to the what the rest of the community is talking about. *If you’re not reading the site, it shows.*
*6) _Do not use clones_* Registering one user is very important since you’re building your brand and credibility around your personality. Sure you could sign up for another user (for those with personality disorder) but signing up more users than that is just silly. You won’t have the time and energy to put in each users like you’re supposed to. Again, Found|READ is about quality, not quantity of, communication. That’s what makes the community valuable.
*7)_The after Found|READ effect_* The journey doesn’t end at Found|READ. I expected to read a lot about you in TrialIPO after seeing this comment. Not because this is interesting or something else but because I wanted to know who was behind this. Even TrialIPOs management bios offer little in terms of credible information about who you are; why you’re doing this; what motivates you. Having a blog would have satisfied me and would give additional information on you and the company after bouncing from Found|READ to your site. Dont expect users to sign up for a product solely because they’re told its great. Respect your users, they are a smarter than you think.
Finally, I don’t mean to be overly harsh with any founder, but *it seems that sometimes people miss the whole point of the marketing process.*
Once upon a time, building a business brand required and lot of money, but little interaction between a company and its customer base.
In our era, brands are built around communities and a constant interaction between users themselves, and between a company and its users. You need to be interesting, give a clear value proposition and reward active and interactive users of your product or service. This method is cheaper, but it takes effort and time–longer than you might expect. The outcome is 1,000 times more valuable than what you’ll get out of any cheap marketing trick, like the one you pulled on the Found|READ community this week. But if you and your product have legs, we’ll recognize it. And if you think it does, you’d be only too happy to give us a chance to make this decision on our own, authentically. *So now, TrialIPO: if you’re really interesting in joining the Found|READ community, tell us about yourselves.*