What truly sucks about tech startups is sales and marketing

I asked Twitter what I should write about next and received many fine answers. Here’s a challenging one from @AdamLGRing who writes:

Hi Alan, what about one crucial investment takeaway for those on the #startup journey from your direct experience? As it turns out, I am collating such bon mots here:

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Just one!? Yikes! OK here is the biggest: most tech founders don’t realise how much time they’ll have to spend on marketing and sales. Your first five years will probably be 5% product, 25% marketing, 70% sales to customers, investors, hires.

For those of us who love turning technology into solutions to customer problems, that sucks. Many of us fight against the dawning realisation that we need to learn and practice sales and marketing until we go off the end of the runway and into the crash barrier.

For me, the most investible startup founders are those with world-class skills at their core but ready to broaden their skills in areas of business they would ordinarily hire talent to cover.

The most interesting technical founders are those who readily and wholeheartedly invest in learning how to market and sell what they’ve been building.

The best non-technical founders are the ones who realise they won’t succeed in managing a growing team of technologists without learning at least at a high level how software and hardware are built.

Basically, the first few years of a startup require us all to learn new things, not just practice the skills we already have.

Those of us who realise that sooner, get past our reluctance, and have the self-discipline to make progress at things we’d rather not do, are the ones most likely to succeed.

I’m Alan Jones, an EiR for startup accelerators, GP at M8 Ventures. Previously investor, founder, and early Yahoo PM. Opinions mine (but should also be yours).

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