Fake it until you make it: Steps for gaining credibility as a startup
You may envision launching your startup in a hip exposed brick office with white board covered walls and employees working in beanbag loungers. In reality, most startups begin with one or two founders in basements, garages and cramped apartments. Where you work doesn’t really matter, but how you present yourself to the entrepreneurial community does. Danielle Tate, entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of MissNowMrs.com, the leading online name change service for brides, offers several steps to gaining credibility as a startup:
Start with the basics.
If you have a meeting, dress well. There may be a whole “jeans and t-shirt entrepreneur” faction, but frankly as a new startup founder you need to look smart and like you care. Sport the company logo t-shirts when you’re in your office, basement or gym, not when you’re pitching your company to investors or attending a conference.
In the startup world, you are your business. If you’re not confident in your success, no one else will be. This is not permission to be arrogant, it is permission to be honest about your assets and ambition. Tell everyone who will listen about how amazing your idea is and why your company is going to succeed. You need to be drinking your Kool Aid before you pass it out to the business world.
Present your business as you envision it.
Are you in the race to be the biggest baddest startup in your niche? Act like you’ve already achieved that status and present your company in that light. Please note, there is a fine line between putting your best foot forward and misrepresenting yourself and your company. Putting a large chunk of your startup capital into a tradeshow booth to look successful and wow your industry is perfectly acceptable. Fudging your profits or numbers in any way is not.
Get chummy with big partners.
The bigger your initial partners, the bigger your company looks. While size isn’t everything, it’s great to look big and lock up key companies before your competitors do. You may have to offer bigger margins/deals to make the partnerships happen, but they will build your business and add industry buzz. It will also help your parents and any investors you may have sleep better at night.
Your company looks bigger, when it is bigger. Consciously take time to brainstorm ways to grow your business. How do you find more customers, partners and extensions of your brand? Finding the answer to these questions will propel you and your startup towards growth and success.
Remember who you are and what you stand for.
In the midst of the scramble to the top of the startup pile, please remember your original goal and mantra. It may be helpful to immortalize your original idea or goal with an inscription or piece of office art. No one likes a sell out...especially the actual person selling out, so stay true to your vision.
With these six steps, you and your startup can go from faking it to making it in the entrepreneurial community. Everyone starts somewhere, and I wish you the very best of success!
As a successful entrepreneur, Danielle is a name change expert, on-camera personality, writer, author of a top rated Google newlywed blog and a bridal magazine contributor. It was a 13-hour struggle to change her name after getting married in 2005 that prompted Danielle to leave her medical sales career to develop and launch MissNowMrs.com. Wanting to save other brides countless hours of hassle, Danielle researched name-changing laws and rules in all 50 states to streamline and implemented her unique three-step, 30-minute online service.
Since 2006, Danielle has served as CEO of MissNowMrs.com and revolutionized the online name change market. Since launching, MissNowMrs.com has assisted more than 225,000 brides in their transition from Miss to Mrs and recently launched MissNowMrs.com/Canada for Canadian brides. She is also the founder of MarriedNameGame.com, the original proprietary name change algorithm to determine your ideal married name, GetYourNameBack.com, an online service dedicated to helping women get their name back after divorce and MarriageLicenseNow.com, a new online resource that offers succinct and up-to-date marriage license information organized by county and state.
How innovation is transforming government
According to Washington Technology’s Top 100 list, Leidos is the largest IT provider to the government. But as Lieutenant General William J. Bender explains, “that barely scratches the surface” of the company’s portfolio and drive for innovation.
Bender, who spent three and a half decades in the military, including a stint as the U.S. Air Force’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), has seen action in the field and in technology during that time, and it runs in the family. Bender’s son is an F-16 instructor pilot. So it stands to reason Bender Senior intends to ensure a thriving technological base for the U.S. Air Force. “What we’re really doing here is transforming the federal government from the industrial age into the information age and doing it hand-in-hand with industry,” he says.
The significant changes that have taken place in the wider technology world are precisely the capabilities Leidos is trying to pilot the U.S. Air Force through. It boils down to developing cyberspace as a new domain of battle, globally connected and constantly challenged by the threat of cybersecurity attacks.
“We recognize the importance of the U.S. Air Force’s missions,” says Bender, “and making sure they achieve those missions. We sit side-by-side with the air combat command, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance infrastructure across the Air Force. There are multiple large programs where the Air Force is partnering with Leidos to ensure their mission is successfully accomplished 24/7/365. In this company, we’re all in on making sure there’s no drop in capability.”
That partnership relies on a shared understanding of delivering successful national security outcomes, really understanding the mission at hand, and Leidos’ long-standing relationship of over 50 years with the federal government.
To look at where technology is going, Bender thinks it is important to look back at the last 10 to 15 years. “What we’ve seen is a complete shift in how technology gets developed,” he says. “It used to be that the government invested aggressively in research and development, and some of those technologies, once they were launched in a military context, would find their way into the commercial space. That has shifted almost a hundred percent now, where the bulk of the research and development dollars and the development of tech-explicit technologies takes place in the commercial sector.”
“There’s a long-standing desire to adopt commercial technology into defense applications, but it’s had a hard time crossing the ‘valley of death’ [government slang for commercial technologies and partnerships that fail to effectively transition into government missions]. Increasingly we’re able to do that. We need to look at open architectures and open systems for a true plug-and-play capability. Instead of buying it now and trying to guess what it’s going to be used for 12 years from now, it should be evolving iteratively.”