Tribes and Traction

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Community of Practice, skmurphy

Question: I’m reading Seth Godin’s Tribes book, what role do you think tribes play for startups? For context, we are in crunch time at my startup. We have a few part-time engineers and have soft-circled first half of angel round. Morale is still very high but have lots on our mind. I’m contemplating whether our energy is better spent “buckling down” and addressing our needs for people and investment, or a whether we should focus on catalyzing a community who share our passion to make tech better for relationships and community.

To answer your fundamental question: tribes are very important but you need to demonstrate enough external traction on a problem worthy of their attention to activate their involvement.

There are  two broad categories for indicators of startup health and progress: internal and external.

  • Internal indicators are things like lines of code written, specifications complete, website launched, morale..anything that does not require action on the part of someone outside the team.
  • External indicators are things like website visits, signups, funds raised, revenue from customers…things that require actions by prospects, customers, investors, partners and other outsiders.

Both categories can include “vanity metrics” that don’t address or substantiate your fundamental business model or value proposition. For example: investment does not substantiate your value proposition or business model.

What will success look like for your startup?

  • If you want to catalyze the creation of new technology products that facilitate networking and relationships that may be more of a social venture than a business venture.
  • If you want your team to be able to work full time on startup tasks you need to generate enough revenue to be able to pay them.
  • If you want to start an open source project that reduces the cost of critical infrastructure for communication and social connection then you would focus more on adoption.

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