Sure, it's difficult being a founder, but being the friend of a founder is no picnic either. Here are some tips to help you be a good buddy to your friend doing a startup. By Brandy Alexander-Wimberly (Founder, Buyvite Group Pay)
Great new websites, apps and enterprise software just magically appear for users, don’t they? Of course not, but to someone outside the business of creating digital products it may appear that way.
Most of my close friends do not work in the digital space and have no idea what I actually do professionally, but when they ask about my startup, I am always prepared to promote my product, as any founder should be. And while most of them do not consider themselves tech savvy, given our world’s collective screen addiction, it does seem like most everyone can relate to user experience. So why not first look to your friends and family to provide insight into your early-stage product?
To make it easy for friends of founders, I’ve compiled this list of the top five things they can do to help support their bestie’s new business.
Be an Early Adopter
Sure, you’re a physician, financial analyst, surfer etc. and maybe you have no use for this product professionally, but your friend spent a lot of time and energy building it, so check it out. Get an account, accept those Terms of Service, spend some time clicking through the pages and getting to know it.
If it's a consumer-facing product, that's all the more reason to dive in, test drive it and understand what your friend is trying to achieve.
Think of it this way, if your good friend did something a little more "tangible" professionally, like pastry chef for example, you’d definitely sample her goods. Sampling UX is no different. An easy-to-use interface can be delicious and a complicated sign-up process can be quite nasty. Plus, as an added bonus, it’s fat free.
Why not combine efforts? Cupcake girl and tech startup girl can get together and host friends for dinner in exchange for touring the product and sampling the delicacies. That way dessert is taken care of and you both get good feedback.
Be Honest About Your Experience
Startup founders spend a huge amount of time and resources creating their product, and can sometimes fail to see the forest through the trees. As a friend, it’s hugely beneficial to experience their product and make recommendations on improvement even if you’re not used to critiquing technology. It’s valuable feedback to hear how people from all walks of life view everything from the look and feel of the experience to the functionality. You may think you’re calling their baby ugly, but you’re not. User experience is everything to an early-stage company and the more feedback your friend can get from someone not associated with building the product, the better.
Follow Them Socially
Getting traction is critical to the success and funding of an early-stage company, and following your friend’s company on any relevant social network they’re plugged in to is beneficial for her. Take a little extra time to see what they’re doing socially and spread it to your own social graph. Commenting, liking and sharing is a very cost effective way to help promote your friend’s product or company. She will do the same for you!
Read Their Email
Your friend also spends a lot of time not only building her product but thinking of ways to market it creatively too. You’re most likely on her email marketing list, take a minute to read her emails and see what she's up to, and again make recommendations on how to improve them.
Also sending over great marketing campaigns that you’ve connected with is an easy way to help your friend brainstorm on how things you’ve responded to can help her company grow its user base.
Introduce It to Your Friends
OK, so you know your friend built something cool, now it’s time to turn it over to your network and people she may not be connected to, and that’s not just via social media. A lot of early success can come from word of mouth and guerilla-style marketing.
And founders- don’t be afraid to incentivize your friends to talk about your product. It’s a very cost effective way to get the word out there. Maybe offer an exchange for something for every person they get to sign up for your service.
It is of course a delicate balance. It’s important to note that if your friend is working on a startup, she may not want to even discuss it, so it can be an awesome gesture to inquire about how you can help. Founders, you also don’t want to be "that girl" who is endlessly self promoting, so knowing your audience is critical too.
Don’t get me wrong, most of my friends and family have been supportive of any venture I’ve been a part of, but I don’t think they quite understand how much their support can add value to an early-stage effort.
Women 2.0 readers: What's the most helpful thing your friends did for you when you were starting up?
About the guest blogger: Brandy Alexander-Wimberly is founder of Buyvite Group Pay, a social payment platform, Cheetah Interactive a digital marketing services company and Silicon Rust Belt, a news source covering technology innovation in the upper Midwest. Follow Silicon Rust Belt on Twitter @SiliconRustBelt Image credit: Katie Harris via Flickr.