Start-up Techies: time for a Chief Social Architect?

I read this article over at Make Magazine about the question of “now what” for folks who 1) successfully get funding via KickStarter and 2) are in the ramp up stage between a low volume hand built product and something mass produced.

There had been some discussion the dc501 mailing list about a local firm, qu-bd, that successfully utilized KickStarter for their 3d printer project. Some of this discussion included a perceived hack in making sure the face presented on KickStarter would be the one that attracted most interest.

Possibly a hack, possibly just good marketing, but this dc501 discussion and the Make article got me thinking about the modern start-up team. Make no mistake about it: a start-up business is NOT one person. There are too many skills necessary and tasks that must be completed that not only is it difficult for one person to do everything, it’s just not efficient for one to try. Sure, the start-up techie is a smart guy, but it just isn’t efficient to learn every skill necessary to get a business off the ground. Admittedly in a start-up some players may wear multiple hats — for instance CEO and CTO being one and the same for a tech start-up.

Traditional start-up teams would include a finance person, who would be in charge of generating and presenting information to potential investors about financial status, projections, and needs, as well as managing any funding deals. With the huge success of KickStarter, indiegogo, RocketHub, and other crowdfunding options, including DIY wordpress plug-ins, I have to wonder if the time has come for a new title in the techpreneur arena. This would be the Chief Social Architect. Ok, yeah, maybe that’s a little grandiose sounding for someone with a small cool KickStarter type tech project, but I think it gets the point across. This person would be responsible for not only web marketing, with social media, blogs, twitter; but also web financing type activities, such as managing crowdfunding operations.

It seems to me that those successful at crowdfunding are those successful at social media and other web based marketing. Do not fool yourself in to believing that the “best” (whatever that means) project gets the gold. These sorts of crowdsourcing/web2.0 activities benefit the best presented project. That is to say it doesn’t hurt to be cool. Even if the top end contributors to a KickStarter type crowdfund are serious about the project, remember it can be the popularity contest that brings in a multitude of small contributors. There can be many ways of doing that; for instance putting the young wife or daughter as the public face on a gritty, dirty, (but still cool) machine shop project. Whether this is a good, bad, or indifferent cultural thing is not what this is about. This is about being successful, and using what tools are available in your hacker skill-set to find that success. Be creative, pull the stops out, spread your word.

Like the guys in the Make article linked above, sometimes in start-up world you find you need skills outside of what was originally envisioned. If you’re going to try crowdfunding, I suggest you add to your team a savvy Chief Social Architect. It may be the difference between getting to the point where you have to worry about mass producing and having a “left side” KickStarter project that is left behind.

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