Pimp my startup: why I want my VC to focus on marketing, not just money

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What should startups want in an investor? Money, smarts, rolodex – sure. But that’s not enough any more. I want my VC to do marketing for me too.

Ron Conway is certainly no lesser investor than Dave McClure. But there are 100x more startup people and early adopters in Asia who know 500 Startups from his many tours of duty (that is certainly true in Croatia too). More importantly, amongst those are hackers and hustlers I want to hire – people who may never have heard of Ron or SVAngels.

VCs like First Round Capital routinely pimp their startups out, such as through their holiday parody video which has more than 100,000 views to date. In the video, partner Josh Kopelman, the genius who spent US$100 000 to get Halfway, Oregon to rename itself to Half.com and later selling the company for US$300-million, makes a pretty cool Psy:

VCs lend you their credibility, which is incredibly important. It used to be about whether the investor is a smart investor with proven good bets. It used to mean Doer, Moritz and Valentine. No longer. Today, in the world of fans, followers and Klout scores, credibility takes on a whole new meaning. The fact that Ashton Kutcher can get into deals that even top tier investors can’t (like AirBnB or Fab) says something about the value of investor-as-marketer.

As startups become faster and leaner in a flatter more competitive world, a plug by Ashton on Two and a Half Men, or to his 13.5-million twitter followers could easily be worth as much as the network of a Silicon Valley kingmaker (especially for a consumer company like Foursquare).

You might argue what credibility a Hollywood actor could command. Well, the fact is, in the eyes of the 20-year-old college kid who is my target user, Ashton’s got way more credibility than Eric Schmidt. Besides, it turns out Ashton Kutcher is a really smart investor too.

If I had to pick between Ashton and Doer, I’d have to admit it could be a hard choice today. As a startup, my problem nowadays is a lot less about money or contacts, and a lot more about distribution and adoption. So VCs, please build your brand and learn how to pimp your startups out.


This opinion piece by angel investor and BillPin CEO Darius Cheung originally appeared on Tech in Asia, a Burn Media publishing partner.

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