The Trap of Startup Awards
It’s quite normal to ask a fellow founder how their business is going when catching up. One response I’ve been getting a lot of is: “Things are not really great, but we won X and Y award and I’ll be speaking at Z award next week.” It’s almost certainly at this point the worst pattern I’ve seen in the last year.
When working on Nuna, I received over 100 emails saying how Nuna is nominated for some award. They almost always included social media content to promote the competition, a decently long form to fill about the business, and a whole bunch of commitments to undertake. It seemed really cool and almost exclusive at first, and I even filled out some of them.
The ROI? Usually some PR, something that most startups die for because they think a newspaper article is going to solve all their growth problems. Some other times it could be a tiny cash contribution or some credits to a tool somewhere that’s sponsoring the award.
The first thing any successful founder will tell you is to eliminate distraction. Focus your business plan and strategy. Zoom in on a niche market. Remove unnecessary meetings. Don’t hire to hire and have as many doers. Yada yada. Startup awards are at the very pole position of distractions. Honestly, if you’re that obsessed with startup awards and not your core business, you’re probably building a startup to be “CEO” and for the fake “clout”, and not to actually solve a real problem. It may sound harsh, but it also means you’re most likely driving your business to the ground.
The worst part is that these awards will be more like an internal echo chamber that you don’t need, especially when business isn’t great. Transparency and honesty in a startup are extremely important. Hence, you want more people clearly telling you what’s not working so you can improve, rather than “fake” pats on the back. It’s just another farm of drinking your own koolaid.
If your core business is doing well, get all the awards you can! Hell, you even deserve them. But until then, don’t make it your life. Maybe spend a tiny amount of time every now and then. Plus, the awards that you truly deserve won’t make you go through a million steps to claim an award. They will simply acknowledge you and allow you to do what you do best: running your business.