What's next?

How not to fail after the fanfare.

There’s a lot of excitement going on this weekend—and while many of my readers are undoubtedly excited about a new President, and our first female Vice-President, undoubtedly even more people are just breathing a sigh of relief. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, you had to be routing for a peaceful end to the election season—or even just an end. We spent a lot of money, effort and emotion on it all, and many are celebrating a win.

But what’s next?

We see that in the startup world, too.

Startups spend many months and lots of money prepping for a big-time launch, only to have very little planned around the follow-up.

Very rarely does a launch itself propel a startup to success—and many companies fail to see past that moment in the timeline. The reality is that the launch only begins the work—be it a presidency or a startup.

In fact, if a startup fails to keep up that initial flurry of attention and excitement, it can be even worse than generating little attention at all. The various stakeholders—media, influencers, and investors—who signal the next big thing are constantly on the lookout. They’re also suspicious about potential flashes in the pan. It’s an innate skepticism from seeing so many things not have staying power despite a big initial push—not unlike various political movements.

So, if something hits their radar, but then they don’t hear about it again after the early days—it reinforces the idea that this was yet another one of those, “Hey, remember when that ways a big thing” ideas that won’t last. It’s really hard to come back from that—and attempts to resuscitate that push often fall flat.

That’s why if you’re budgeting your time, effort, and resources to bring something to market, you need a timeline where not only is is a launch at or near the beginning, but what you’ve built looks more like powerlines and less like fireworks.

Powerlines are infrastructure—things that might take longer to put together, but they keep the energy going over the long term. For a startup, that might mean building a mailing list in the form of a newsletter, or a successful podcast in your subject area even ahead of launching. It might mean a whole calendar of influencer editorials—not just one meant to push you over the top in the beginning.

These things give a startup the answer to “What’s next?” should that initial article or event flop—or even if it doesn’t because onlookers are always going to be asking.

Fireworks are expensive and they don’t last—that’s what happens when startups put too lunch emphasis on launch day activities. It’s never usually the one article or one event that makes or breaks a company, even though people think that has happened with various startups.

For example, people think that it happened at SXSW with Twitter in 2007—but they forget that a small but dedicated mass of people were already on Twitter ahead of the conference. That conference accelerated adoption, but there was already some adoption in the community.

That’s why Foursquare didn’t quite take off in the same way in 2009. It’s because they launched at SXSW and therefore didn’t have the infrastructure of an existing base to keep it going to critical mass and lots of momentum.

We’re in the launch phase of this new presidency. There’s been a lot of hope and expectation placed on it, but there’s also an innate skepticism when it comes to politics. It’s important to keep something new always coming down the pipeline when they ask, “What’s next?”

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