You Can’t Build a Brand by Aping Someone Else

The airwaves are too crowded for undifferentiated content and distribution

Oct 04 2019

Naval: As we discussed, the first way to build a brand is being a good investor to begin with. A second way is creating content that helps entrepreneurs. A third way is building infrastructure or platforms that help entrepreneurs.

Paul Graham can get into deals because of Y Combinator. Nivi and I often can get into deals because we started AngelList. Ryan Hoover can get into deals because he started Product Hunt. Platforms created by First Round Capital and Andreessen Horowitz help thom win deals against other VCs.

You can also start a conference. Jason Lemkin created the SaaStr conference; Tim O’Reilly at OATV publishes content and hosts conferences.

Steven Lurie is great at recruiting, so he started Team Builder Ventures. He put his value right in his brand name. Companies know what he offers; they know why they should give him a piece of the round and how he’s going to help them.

You’re not going to build a brand simply because you want to

There are nuances, though. A VC will say, “We need to build a brand; therefore we need to have a blog. Let’s hire a content writer and launch a blog.” Or, “Man, I need to up my Twitter game. I’ll get on Twitter and start telling entrepreneurs about my investment criteria.”

You’re not going to build a brand simply because you want to.  Rather, a brand is an authentic expression of who you are. So whatever unique insight you have, express it in the most authentic way possible.

If you’re good at Twitter, get on Twitter. If you’re good at blogging, blog. If you’re good at writing books, write books. If you’re good at speaking, speak at conferences or create a podcast.

But you’re not going to be successful by aping somebody else; it must be authentic to you.

Also, the media airwaves are now crowded, so you need top-quality content and distribution.

Even though this podcast is an amateur effort, we cut things into snippets, clean up the voices and create transcripts and highlights. We’re at the leading edge of the curve.

Sure, other people can copy us and catch up—but by then we’ll be somewhere else. We may be off writing a book, doing a road show, running an incubator or building another software platform. We stay ahead of the competition because we’re always tinkering at the edge.