Startup Lessons from Election Day 2012

After billions of dollars spent on ads, gigabytes of campaign emails and countless hours of productivity put into Nate Silver’s polling blog, Election Day is finally here.  But don’t despair, entrepreneurs – there are plenty of lessons that your startup can take from the campaign trail.

1.  “Strategery.”  You can’t predict the future but you can (and should) be as calculating as possible.  Just as a candidate needs a game plan before a debate or a path to 270 electoral votes, startups need a business plan that will inform decision-making.  To avoid that killer “oops” moment, flip through your binders and come prepared.

2.  Trend-setters, taste makers and early adopters.  Key endorsements can make or break an election.  Similarly, gaining traction or endorsements from certain consumers, investors and advisors are more likely than others to help your startup reach various tipping points.  Target your limited time and resources wisely.

3.  Local and likable.  Business, as in politics, depends on who you know and who knows you.  Recognize that your startup has many constituents, such as investors, media, consumers, competitors, and even neighbors.  Listen to their concerns and make sure they hear about your solutions.  Just remember that reputation matters, so be likable enough when making the rounds.

4.  Fundraising matters.  You might have the best ideas on the campaign trail or in the marketplace, but that’s meaningless if you don’t have the capital to validate your ideas and spread the word.  It takes money to make money (and rock the vote), so don’t be caught short on cash.

5.  Beware of malarkey.  Candidates and businesspeople alike can be less than truthful, to others and to themselves.  As you navigate the startup scene in search of trustworthy advisors, be on the lookout for salespeople with their own interests at play.

6.  Change.  You don’t need to flip-flop, but your startup will need to evolve and iterate over the course of its lifetime.  If you want to move forward, you may need to re-tool your branding, engineering and distribution to adapt to the changes by your competition.

7.  Respect the 100%.  Yes, it only takes a majority in interest to be the decider in a startup, but don’t take other equity partners for granted.  Whether dealing with a co-founder with 47% of the company or an ex-employee who exercised some options, treat everyone with dignity.  After all, it takes a village to raise a startup.

8.  Elections have consequences.  That’s why founders should always be sure to file an 83(b) election within 30 days of purchasing unvested stock.

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