By: Matt Berberian
When we begin working with startups, they often lack a critical asset: a brand. To help entrepreneurs develop their brands, we start by asking what they are trying to accomplish.
The answer (more often than we’d like to admit) is typically some version of “We just need to look legit” or “We’re busy building a product and haven’t thought about it.”
With easy design templates like Canva and Pitch, off-the-shelf domains and logos, and more pressing priorities like product development, many wonder why early-stage companies should focus on brand at all.
As if these questions weren’t enough, there are two more major challenges to building brands for startups:
The first is the agency partner challenge. Agencies have created brand development systems that will cost $100K-$300K+ (with a healthy 30–70%+ margin built in for the agency). Agencies usually provide a fixed-duration approach, which works well for established companies with existing products and audiences. However, it doesn’t work for startups with nascent products, as they need the optionality and flexibility.
The second is the “ Iron Triangle “ challenge: when choosing between “Good,” “Fast,” and “Cheap,” only two can be selected (e.g. Good + Fast = cannot also be Cheap). For early-stage companies, this creates a dilemma because two of the three vectors are already locked in. They must be fast and likely have very little capital to do it. In this equation, “Good” is sacrificed, and that deficiency is clearly on exhibit in the visual brand.
These challenges cause companies real pain-points: confusing origin stories can slow down or even kill fundraising efforts.
That’s why brand MATTERS at the early stage.
1. Brand helps you confidently tell a story 📢
At the earliest stage of a company’s formation, oftentimes it’s only the founder who can clearly articulate the problem and solution that they seek to address. That hypothesis is generally unstructured, not scalable and not validated with real-life audiences.
Through the development of a brand & experience strategy, a company can distill unstructured thoughts into a concise value proposition. A strong brand can help articulate reasons-to-believe, voice & tone, and help founders more clearly convey…