Staying Under The Radar and Ignoring Fanfare

I’m not one for predictions posts and this isn’t one. It’s talking about something that’s happening now into early 2016 and will continue to accelerate over the next couple of years. Many more companies are staying under the radar — little press, not announcing funding, and generally staying away from fanfare. It seems counterintuitive when there’s so much hype going on in the industry — unicorns, scandals, exciting product releases, and more.

In reality the best companies are staying under the radar and ignoring fanfare. There are a good half a dozen companies I know of that have raised multiple rounds of funding, grown revenues, and more, yet it’s not reported publicly anywhere. I’m not a VC either, so my guess is that there are many many more. Years ago this would be heresy as the best companies were quite correlated to how much press they could get and the valuations attached to their company.

Take a look at Wish — they’ve grown a marketplace to GMV of 2 billion and have raised hundreds of millions. There’s been very little reporting and that’s not on accident. As an entrepreneur, there’s a few reasons why this makes sense and I hope the trend continues:

We like to get shit done — Focusing on press and hyping and the conference circuit is tiresome. It helps with VC and hiring to a degree, but it doesn’t help get more customers or ship product. As a first time founder, it feels like you’re accomplishing something, but it actually doesn’t get anything done.

Things aren’t all that exciting — Many press stories love to talk about scandal or valuations. Most startups don’t have scandal or lawsuits with the state attached. It’s just not that interesting. We’re a group of guys and gals coding, in sales meetings, and writing stuff. It’s not the social network. We’re also desensitized to valuations unless they’re 1 billion+. The press doesn’t really care to write about a 10 on 70 A round for a company growing like gangbusters that picked the partner they want to work with over the valuation that mattered. The right founders aren’t really focused on the number raised. All we see is runway, the need to grow quicker, and the fact that we raised the right amount of cash to hopefully get there.

We’re starting to focus on metrics and being better operators as founders — We have at least 10x more founders and seed stage companies than we did years ago. With that, a lot of us were green, hell I know I was when I started my first VC backed company. With this influx of founders, there’s been a lot of hard lessons learned about what the right metrics are, unit economics, burn rate, and operating a business. VC partners and independent board members are instilling this on from the early days and it’s setting the tone for what matters. With this focus on metrics, there’s not really time to focus on the vanity of press, unicorns, and all the hoopla out there.

Inevitably as a company grows, it will get pulled out into the public light more and more. Below is a tweet that still sticks with me to this day. It’s a company that very few have heard of through hoopla, yet it’s a private company that issued a billion dollar dividend a few years back.

Build more Assurion’s, less “Unicorns”.

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