I launched GatherContent back in September and was covered by TechCrunch on launch day. We didn't close a round of funding, my story isn't particularly ground breaking and the start-up isn't a sexy new photo sharing app. Here's how I did it:
Research similar niches, not products
We're helping web professionals so I started by researching start-ups that were operating in similar niches to us (but were not similar products) that had also been covered. It's a relatively simple task, and off the top of my head I could only think of a few:
- InvisionApp (collaborating on mockups)
- CageApp (collaborating on mockups and other media)
- DivvyHQ (editorial calendar)
- Kapost (content marketing platform)
What's the story with no story
I looked at the different angles each took with their press, finding that most were "we've just closed a gazllion dollars in funding". So, here I am thinking balls, I've just walked away from $160k seed round and all we're doing is coming out of public beta.
I looked into the journalists that covered each of the start-ups on TechCrunch, and other publications like TheNextWeb (which didn't cover us). I looked at start-ups they had covered and their angles, again, "we've just raised $X dollars" or "we're the hardest hustlers you'll ever meet, oh, and we scored $2M seed".
I decided to email Anthony Ha, a nice chap from TechCrunch. I was honest, told him we're fixing an unsexy problem, and why we walked away from investment. I hoped that would be a good enough hook to get him interested. Here is the email I sent him:
I'm James, nice to meet you. Please don't delete me. This is a bit of a long-shot, but worth a try.
We're launching our start-up (GatherContent.com) out of public beta on Tuesday next week and were wondering if you might be interesting in covering it.
We're fixing content development and workflow. It's not a particularly sexy problem, however it's a complete pain in the arse for those who manage the process of content collaboration & organisation.
I like to describe our vision as Basecamp meets Google Docs with structure.
Let me know if you'd like any stats or further information, happy to share all including why we walked away from a $160k seed round.
Thanks and have a great day :)
I tend to ramble, so I tried to keep it short, sweet and to the point. I got this reply:
Sure, I'm probably interested in covering, though would like to hear a few more details first. Can you send over product details you have, as well as your actual launch time? Thanks!
Wow, I got a reply! I had to make sure that my response was well thought out and had enough juice to keep him interested. I broke things down in to the following:
- Background (why we are somewhat credible)
- What I thought the hook was
- The problem
- Social proof
I probably rambled a little more than I should have, but I wanted to come across as genuinely as possible.
Here's what I got back with:
We're a small, (now) bootstrapped company based in Aberdeen, Scotland. My co-founder and I, both 24, are recently married and previously built a 14 person digital agency over the last 18 months. We still own that company but it's now being run without us.
2 weeks ago we walked away from $160,000 in seed funding because we decided after taking advice from many folks, including Joel from BufferApp, that we should get profitable before we take funding to get a better valuation, not rocket science I know, but as it was our first experience with investment the temptation to say yes was definitely difficult.
The problem we're solving was born out of our own frustrations of managing the content development process. As I'm sure you can imagine playing email-tennis with word/google documents, and attachments is incredibly unproductive.
We're seeing all sorts of organisations sign up to the product, from agency networks like JWT, publications like The New Yorker, charities like UNICEF, universities like Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, through to enterprise organisations such as IBM, and even a few local government authorities.
Personally, I think content development has been a long forgotten process and people have put up with patchwork solutions. There are plenty of "content collaboration" platforms out there but none of them govern the creation of the content, they literally take word documents and dump them in the cloud.
We launched our public beta at the end of March, and have since seen 5,860 accounts sign up. Obviously this isn't millions, though coupled with the activeness of our accounts and for a niche B2B start-up that has a big vision to fix content, it's validation enough for our team to keep hustling.
One last note, if you are thinking "isn't this just a CMS?". Short answer is no. We're a pre-CMS. CMS' put webmasters and developers in control, and our goal is to put the content team in control.
Like I mentioned, it's not a particularly sexy problem, but content chaos is rife and we're solving it. You can take a look at the new (not-live-yet) marketing site, and check out the beta.Thanks so so much for your time Anthony, I really appreciate it. Let me know if you want any more details.
Amongst my excitement I made the mistake of forgetting to answer one of his questions by not mentioning the time we actually launch. Oops.
Obviously my response worked, and Anthony saw enough to ask for a remote demo and chat on Skype. We ended up talking for over an hour. I re-iterated much from my email and went in to detail on how we identified the problem, and why we decided to solve it. I didn't plan what I was going to say, other than how I'd structure the product walk through.
If you are planning to try and get coverage, be genuine. Research journalists that are relevant, talk to them, don't sell to them and focus on building a meaningful relationship. After my general chat with Anthony I like to think that I could hop on Skype at anytime, update him with how we're progressing and have him care.
Maybe I'm being optimistic.
I'll talk about the results our launch generated in my next post.