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Yeay or Nay? Saying "We are the next Facebook"

Just wanted to share some thoughts and get some views from you folks on the topic of "Founders ambitions".

Wearing two hats here: one as a founder, the other as an investor.

The topic is: how much ambition should founders display in the early stages - in other words, should we say we are the next Facebook?

A lot of us will have been torn by this question. In the early stages of a venture, we try to make-do and there is a say that goes like "fake it until you make it". There is also the belief that you don't catch flies with vinegar - so you need to display massive ambitions for your product. Finally, there is the unthrottled enthusiasm that characterise founders and help us go through thick and thin.

These are in a nutshell all the arguments in favour of displaying steel-made faith and overarching optimism about our venture.

Which is all good and natural, but comes with a stack-load of "buts".

1 - But, faking it until you make it is still faking it. Personally, be it as a founder or an investor, I hate when people fake it, even for alleged "good" reasons. Because it is a form of lie, and one thing investors hate above all is lies. In any way, shape or form.
Besides - faking it unavoidably leads to disappointment. Better be rational, and honest, with solid metrics and a robust plan forward. Investors know the stage we are at, and do not want to be sold fluff, but rather be confident in our capacity to evaluate, measure and take risks, execute a properly laid-out plan.

2 - But, "massive ambitions" are no less than Excel spreadsheet engineering. How true is this! Anyone can have a billion-dollar business within 24 months... at least certainly in a spreadsheet! This is not credible. Not even remotely.
What is credible is to demonstrate how we get our first 10, 100, 1000 customers. How much they pay for our product. How much it costs us to acquire them. Demonstrating repeatability in our sales patterns and marketing results is also credible.

3 - But, boundless enthusiasm is no more no less than autosuggestion. To some degree, over-optimism can be construed as founders first trying to convince themselves of the overwhelming potential of what they are building.
Investors will tend to prefer "quiet optimism" - one that rationally looks into what's achievable and where ultra-growth can potentially be achieved.

With all of that in mind, we are left with finding the right balance between a great vision, with great ambitions and underlying confidence we can execute well AND an excess of the above that can just ruin the very ambitions we are trying to achieve.

I've seen lots of startups fail to raise funds because of this difficult-to-find balance. When raising funds, I tend to be more on the careful side. When chipping money in, I like ambition - a lot! (No one wants to invest in a small potential). But I like as well control and moderation.

What about you? Do you find yourself wrestling with this question? Any experience you would like to share?

  1. 3

    Absolutely don’t say that. It’s so cringey.

    It’s like when bands would say they were the next nirvana.

    You can say “we’re aiming for a user base of X and a valuation of Y” and make those numbers as big as you like. But don’t say you’re the next Facebook.

  2. 2

    Here's a question for "the" question, "How many 'We are the next Facebook' startups are still around today?" The most famous one to make this claim is Diaspora (https://diasporafoundation.org/). (I thought they had died off since I hadn't heard anything about them for a looooong time but looks like they are still around.)

    The point is, any claims of "We are the next Facebook" has not come to pass. Not to say that an idea/app/service cannot reach that level of, or even greater success. But, I don't think that can be done by claiming to be the thing that one is trying to replace.

    I think a better phrasing could be, "We are the next big social network" in which case, an investor/user might ask the question, what makes you different/better than other social networks out there? That starts the conversation for you to be able to make your case.

    It's a good idea to dream big but a claim like "We are the next Facebook" sounds a lot like counting the fruit even before the tree has matured and that conceit can stifle the drive/creativity one might need to achieve that level of success.

    JUst my three cents. :)

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