Startups need to be a ‘little bit evil’

One of the big problems with startups is they’re not ‘evil’ enough.

Now there’s a statement bound to make you go ‘huh’.

“You need to be a little bit evil,” says Alistair Croll a speaker at Supercharge. Supercharge was a startup oriented third day on October 7 of a Lean Startup Conference at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre. The first two days were aimed at government and corporate sectors, allowing USA speakers such as Croll to be slightly more relaxed in how they talked to actual startupees.

Alistair Croll

“In today’s world there’s an information overload which results in a shortage of attention,” Croll says. “You have to ask yourself that when you build something, will anybody care. To get that attention, sometimes you have to be a little bit naughtly. So, stop writing press releases, start doing a bit of hacking to find some customers.”

Croll suggests that startups have to employ unconventional strategies, “be a little bit hacky.”

He gave examples of new companies being clever and gaining an advantage from “zero-day hacks’.

  • Farmville constantly inviting people to play on Facebook by posting to profiles. Facebook eventually removed this loophole
  • Someone from Tinder going to sororities (US, female college dormitories), talking on entrepreneurship, and having all these women installing the app. She then went across the road to the fraternity (male equivalent), got the guys to download the app and start swiping right
  • Twitter – enabled posting through the texting network when smartphones weren’t common, limiting messages to 140 characters

His website is, and elements of his thinking (in a non-creepy way) is that startups almost have to stalk their prospects, finding out who they are. (Given that the tagline on his website is ‘otherwise life is dull’, you can see that Croll’s thinking is non-standard!). In fact, I’d highly recommend checking out that site, and check out the brilliant Bud Caddell venn diagram shows about what we should be working on.

In fact, it is so good, I’ll paste it here.

“Therefore, watch for technology changes that change the status quo. Luck is opportunism, so recognise the easy path that no one else has noticed,” he says.

Most people assume the market will care about a startups products, when in fact they don’t says Croll.

“The question you’ve got to ask yourself is whether you’re being evil enough in your go to market strategy.”


About sticknz

sticK is by Peter Kerr, a writer for hire. I have a broad science and technology background and interest, with an original degree in agricultural science. My writing speciality is making the complex understandable. I am available for outside consultancy work, and for general discussions of converting a good idea into something positive
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