But here’s the deal: Noise is not your problem.
In 2014, after working for Google, HubSpot, and a Series A tech startup — all in digital media and content marketing roles — I pushed my chair to the other side of the tech industry’s table and started working in venture capital. For the next three years, I called NextView Ventures my work-home — and what a wonderful home it was.
One day, I decided to create what should have been a simple blog post: a roundup of all the top podcasts hosted by VCs. I thought it would be a great way to announce the fact that we were also creating a new show. I was admittedly nervous about that new podcast: It was my project, and hundreds of startup-focused shows already existed. In other words: We were about to compete in a noisy niche inside our noisy world. (Oh, the humanity!!!)
For the article that day, I did what you’d expect: I linked to a bunch VC shows, and I started copying and pasting each show descriptions into the article I got partway through my list, and that’s when I saw it:
- A discussion about tech startups and trends from (VC Name)
- A casual conversation about technology, entrepreneurship, gadgets, and more.
- Weekly interviews with leaders in tech and entrepreneurship.
- An insider look at tech, VC, and where the world is headed.
I’d copied and pasted four separate descriptions for four shows. Apparently, all I needed was one.
Noise competing with noise competing with noise.
Feeling the pressure to publish, I shrugged and sheepishly sent out the article into the ether. It did … okay.
But then something amazing happened.
Our brand new show started getting all this crazy attention. TechStars, the multi-city startup incubator, created a roundup of “every damn startup podcast imaginable.” The only three VCs to be given an A+ were Kleiner Perkins (45 years in business, with investments like Google and Amazon), Andreesen Horowitz (the hottest firm on the planet, with $2.7 billion under management) … and NextView. The firm was five years old at the time — a baby by VC standards. Our biggest portfolio company back then employed 100 people in one office in downtown Boston.
And stuff like that just kept happening. Social media love. Email love. Guest requests.
Forbes ranked us among their top-12 shows for entrepreneurs. One competitor ranked in the same article had 120 podcast episodes and 1 million social followers. A tech media outlet listed had 85 episodes and 3 million monthly uniques to their site. We made the list after just 13 episodes.
We had 50,000 combined Twitter followers on the team. I had a budget of $200, which I spent on equipment. And the show was about one-third of one person’s time (me, a rookie podcaster).
All we’d done (and I can’t stress that enough) was create a show that was slightly different than the others. Instead of the NextView Show or Tech Innovators, we called it Traction. Instead of describing it as “a discussion about tech and investing,” we promised “creative and clever stories of how startups start.” Instead of chasing the biggest influencers in our space, we booked guests who could tell stories or speak to the topics we chose.
We got massive results in less time and with fewer resources than I ever imagined possible.
After all, by launching this show, we’d added more noise to that noisy world.
This isn’t an isolated incident, either. Whether you’re on the biggest possible brand stage — Apple, Red Bull, Marriott — or you’re a brand-new company, we see this happening everywhere. If you zig while everybody else zags, you win. You stand out. You get attention in an era where attention is at a premium.
It seems like today, everybody wants to be average. Everyone keeps replacing their own creative thinking or knowledge of their own context for absolutes — the best practice, the hack, the cheat, the guru’s new trick. Sure, someone on Medium is screaming at you today, saying you HAVE TO do something exactly their way.
But maybe you shouldn’t.
Maybe, instead of painting with a similar color to everyone else, go find some white space. Try to own something outright, instead of compete for incrementally more.
Big or small, new or entrenched, B2B or B2C, for-profit or nonprofit — it doesn’t matter. We all live and work in the same noisy world, but that is not the issue.
It’s time we embraced reality and acted accordingly: