The wrong onboarding of Hillary supporters that helped Trump win.

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9/11/16 it’s 8am in Berlin and I woke up with Trump as the “45th president of the United States of America”. Like many people around the world and especially most of young american citizens, I’m shocked. This title sump up perfectly how unreal the situation is. Breath and read it again : « Donald Trump 45th president of the United States of America ».

How can you elect a black president twice and switch to a racist, homophobe, sexist, tv reality show president ?! That’s probably the most fascinating thing in the “american dream” concept, everything is really possible. At least if Trump became president now you have no excuse for not following your dream, work hard on what’s really matter to you and learn by doing.

As nothing is black or white and the reality way more complex. I’v then started to dig into the internet to read different articles about this election in order to understand what’s happened. Why Trump won? Especially as being french there is a high risk that our country face the same problem in our next presidential election in 2017.

It didn’t take me too long before I found an article that caught my attention. An article from the filmmaker Michael Moore published in July 2016 in the Huffington Post : “5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win”. An interesting article that make me noticed how politics is closed to startup. How the race for presidency is closed to the race for startup to reach their product market fit, grow and potentially become a unicorn.

In this article I will highlight some part of the Michael Moore article to make the parallel with the startup process.

Thanks to Moore we will see why Hillary Clinton failed to onboard more voters than Trump and win this 2016 american presidency.

Bubble effect

« …Unfortunately, you are living in a bubble that comes with an adjoining echo chamber where you and your friends are convinced the American people are not going to elect an idiot for president. You alternate between being appalled at him and laughing at him because of his latest crazy comment or his embarrassingly narcissistic stance on everything because everything is about him.”

Like media, a part of the Hillary voters and Super Pacs donators old industries are living in their bubble. They don’t realize that a new world is quickly taking over by disrupting one by one frozen oligopolies market with low customers satisfaction. They usually laugh at startup or ignore them because they don’t get this new paradigme until it become too late.

Few examples of bubble effect :

  • We saw it with music and media industries
  • Currently with Tesla and fossil energy companies.
  • In 2016 French government and most of other european countries are still considering the new-technology area not as a real industry, except when it’s to promote their image to a young electorate.

This bubble effect can also takes place when you are only surrounded by people similar to you.

Silicon Valley seems a great place to build a tech company but because you are surrounded by people with the same mindset it sometimes lead your products to fail because real world people don’t want it or even worst don’t need it. At least for the next 10 years.

Politicians have the same level of disconnection with reality. Disconnection with what is happening deeply in the roots. That’s why the concept “do thing that don’t scale” first is so important.

Lesson 1 : never forget the power of angry silent masses. Don’t get stuck only with people like you to avoid the bubble effect. As Franck Zappa said “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”


“And there is no doubt in my mind that if people could vote from their couch at home on their X-box or PlayStation, Hillary would win in a landslide. But that is not how it works in America. People have to leave the house and get in line to vote. And if they live in poor, Black or Hispanic neighborhoods, they not only have a longer line to wait in, everything is being done to literally stop them from casting a ballot.”

The perfect example of a wrong onboarding for the product « make the citizens of my country vote”. It’s actually the case in many occidental countries. The friction is way too big to bring your voter from « register » to « vote ». If Hillary had studied better her funnel conversion and user journey in order to deeply understand the behaviors of her most important voters segment maybe the situation would be different now.

When you think about it, it’s surprising that no government tackle the challenge to make the process of voting as seamless as possible especially when you see these huge abstention rates in many occidental countries. Even if it won’t change some of the reasons why people are not voting nowadays, working on improving your activation rate of your xxx millions citizens could help. What if voting was as easy as ordering a Uber?


“… who is going to have the most motivated, most inspired voters show up to vote? You know the answer to this question. Who’s the candidate with the most rabid supporters? Whose crazed fans are going to be up at 5 AM on Election Day, kicking ass all day long, all the way until the last polling place has closed, making sure every Tom, Dick and Harry (and Bob and Joe and Billy Bob and Billy Joe and Billy Bob Joe) has cast his ballot?”

This is exactly what having a strong fan base turned into ambassadors means. The dream of all brand where only few of them are successful: Apple, Supreme, Uber in France, Obama (a true rock star president)…

A few fanatic early adopters are way more powerful than a mass of people without any feeling for what you are doing.

As Steve Job said you only need 1000 fan in your church to conquer the world. Trump has a hardcore fanbase that he knew how to talk to. The first part of this fan base would do anything to don’t see a Democrats woman lead their country. Moreover the racist, homophobe and sexist declaration of Trump were compatible with their beliefs. The second part of the fanbase on which Trump built his success are the angry and hopeless customers of the segment “economic crisis, chapter unemployment” fed up with the abuse of the political and financial elite ». A fan base found in the swing States of the rust belt as Moore is explaining later in his article.

Hillary Clinton didn’t have this type of fanbase but rather people voting for her by default in order to avoid Trump as a president. In consequence maybe they voted for her but they didn’t bother to spread the word around them. Organic growth and referral = 0

Fake Growth

“…That’s right. That’s the high level of danger we’re in. And don’t fool yourself — no amount of compelling Hillary TV ads, or outfacting him in the debates or Libertarians siphoning votes away from Trump is going to stop his mojo.”

You can’t buy growth and moreover you can’t build growth on a product that is not good enough to solve problem that matter. As Brian Balfour says Facebook, Uber, Dropbox all of them have built their long term growth on their existing user base. No massive investment in ads or anything similar would help them to build a strong active user base in the long term. “Make something people want” and the rest will follow.

The power of angry customers

“And now The Outsider, Donald Trump, has arrived to clean house! You don’t have to agree with him! You don’t even have to like him! He is your personal Molotov cocktail to throw right into the center of the bastards who did this to you! SEND A MESSAGE! TRUMP IS YOUR MESSENGER!”

This part make me think about the love story between French taxi and Uber. During the violent strike of French taxi against VTC, Uber received such a strong support on Facebook from angry customers. They reached their highest number of download on the Appstore during that period. Most of these angry customers might not even take taxi often, but they didn’t forget each time when a taxi abused them. Uber like Trump, in a proportional way of course, is the personal cocktail Molotov for angry taxi customers to send a message. The time for the french taxi oligopole is over. It’s time to pay back all their years of abuse and bad services.

Trump as a talented entertainer knew how to talk to these people with simple words that would echoes and resonate perfectly in their own bubble. He would be their hero that will end the oligopole of a corrupted elite who doesn’t understand their reality and daily life struggles. As a business man he saw how strong he could leverage this anger to serve his purposes and won the Iron Throne of America.

Fake it until you make it

“…When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States…

It seems this motto is the closest one between politics and startup except that most of the time politics never make it.

A good fake it until you make it has to target a strong problem experienced by customers on a market so you can promise them the best. As their situation is painful they are in a better position to engage with your product.

Start small

“All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he’s expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that’ll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states. He doesn’t need Florida. He doesn’t need Colorado or Virginia. Just Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that will put him over the top. This is how it will happen in November.”

Start small then expend. Like Peter Thiel said « the challenge will be to think small”. This is what Trump did successfully, he focus his energy only on four states out of 50. He found which key states he had to convince to win the whole game. In these key states he knew he could leverage a powerful fanbase and turn them into ambassadors who will do the rest of the job and convince their neighbors to vote for him.

Charismatic leader

The Hillary Problem. She is hugely unpopular — nearly 70% of all voters think she is untrustworthy and dishonest. She represents the old way of politics, not really believing in anything other than what can get you elected.
…the kids don’t like her, and not a day goes by that a millennial doesn’t tell me they aren’t voting for her. No Democrat, and certainly no independent, is waking up on November 8th excited to run out and vote for Hillary the way they did the day Obama became president or when Bernie was on the primary ballot. The enthusiasm just isn’t there. And because this election is going to come down to just one thing — who drags the most people out of the house and gets them to the polls — Trump right now is in the catbird seat.”

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. » S.Sinek

if you product don’t get people excited you already lose even if you are backed by the best VC in town. Clinton is backed by Goldman Sachs and many other but it doesn’t change the fact that she is a default choice for many of her voters. Her “why” doesn’t get them excited. As we saw before without the support of a strong fanbase you won’t make it.

That’s basically what growing a marketplace is about. You’r maybe not the most sexiest but you are good to drag the most people out of the house to use your product. Execution first.

“The need has not changed, but the tool has.”

“…She never talks in an excited voice when asked why she’s voting for Hillary. A depressed voter. Because when you’re young, you have zero tolerance for phonies and BS. Returning to the Clinton/Bush era for them is like suddenly having to pay for music, or using MySpace or carrying around one of those big-ass portable phones.”

“As the technology changes, you then find yourself being the company who in 2016 says, we’re now available online.” » Des Traynor

That’s what Hillary Clinton is all about.

In politic in general there is a big mismatch between the way of doing politic and the reality = make your citizens involved in the democratic process. As Des Traynor said in this great article : “the things we need to do in our lives rarely actually change. But the ways we can do them will always change. »

Few examples he gives :

  • SMS vs What’s App
  • Desktop (aka Microsoft) vs mobile revolution (aka IOS and Android).

Politics are missing this change since too long now. Therefore a large part of the population feel excluded of the political process. More and more people are not voting because they are lazy or dumb but rather as a sign of protest against an archaic democratic system lead by a 60+ years old corrupted political mafia.

Be radical

“They’re not going to vote for Trump; some will vote third party, but many will just stay home. Hillary Clinton is going to have to do something to give them a reason to support her — and picking a moderate, bland-o, middle of the road old white guy as her running mate is not the kind of edgy move that tells millenials that their vote is important to Hillary. Having two women on the ticket — that was an exciting idea. But then Hillary got scared and has decided to play it safe. This is just one example of how she is killing the youth vote.”

In that case Hillary would have been radical by choosing a women like her as a running mate.

As DHH says in his book Rework : « A strong stand is how you attract superfan They point to you and defend you. And they spread the word further, wider and more passionately than any advertising could. If no one is upset by what you’r saying you’r probably not pushing hard enough (you’r probably boring too)”

Radical = cristal clear. Trump is cristal clear and upset people while Clinton is on the boring part. The best radical choice that Hillary could make would be to put her ego on the side and let Bernie Sanders to represent Democrats in the presidential. With the strong fanbase he has, especially among millennial, he would probably won the presidential.

Expectation vs reality

“Finally, do not discount the electorate’s ability to be mischievous or underestimate how any millions fancy themselves as closet anarchists once they draw the curtain and are all alone in the voting booth. It’s one of the few places left in society where there are no security cameras, no listening devices, no spouses, no kids, no boss, no cops, there’s not even a frigging time limit. You can take as long as you need in there and no one can make you do anything. You can push the button and vote a straight party line, or you can write in Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. There are no rules”

Always surprising how people can use your product in a way you would never imagine just because they can.

The great analysis of Moore showed us that in politic like in startup ideas doesn’t matter that much but rather than :

  • Execution
  • Market opportunity with strong pain + low customers satisfaction
  • Radicalness

are the key of success.

Thanks for reading ! :)

Feel free to add some insights to the Moore article in the comment.

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