Why does fundraising get more press than bootstrapping?

Why does fundraising get more press than bootstrapping? That’s the question posed by entrepreneur Jesse Pujji posed on X. At first glance, it does seem unfair a bootstrapped founder is overlooked while a big raise attracts major press, but a raise is actually just a signal a journalist may use to verify trust and legitimacy. There are many other tools.

Pujji is the founder of Gateway X, where he builds cashflow for founders and their startups. As investors demand earlier profitability and inflation tightens founder cash, bootstrapping makes more financial sense and protects equity. Logically, raising money shouldn’t be newsworthy. But in cases where a journalist doesn’t know you and has no way to validate your story, a raise can signal credibility and trust in your brand. The reasoning is, if a bunch of people trusted you enough to give you their hard-earned money, there must be a reason.

Why fundraising gets attention from journalists.

Obviously, connections and other motivations are at play in big raises. The existence of a bigger round doesn’t mean a company has a better path to profitability or longevity. But a journalist needs tools to quickly validate your story and legitimacy. If you have no credibility, no connections, and no way for a journalist to “vet” you, a large raise can do the job.

Indeed, there are many publications that tend to focus on raises. Axios Pro Rata, WSJ Pro VC, VentureBeat Daily Roundups, Daily Crunch, and Fortune Term Sheet, among others. Money talks. Investors are what I call a trust channel.

To briefly explain what trust channels are: founders believe better ideas matter, but they do not. Instead, individuals rely on communities for information, like newsletters, relationships, tribes, brands, etc. (Read the full deep dive here.) A fundraise isn’t the only trust channel however. There are hundreds.

How to get press without fundraising

Understanding how to get press without fundraising is about identifying the wide spectrum of trust channels a journalist may use to quickly vet you. Here are seven examples, but there are likely 50-100 different channels, and they will likely vary from journalist to journalist.

  • Celebrities: love ’em or hate ’em, celebrities can be a quick way to gain trust.
  • Established clients: if you are doing business with established clients like Tesla or Apple.
  • Notable cofounders: if Jack Dorsey of Twitter is your co-founder, his success transfers trust to you.
  • Academic proof: research from Universities that validates your approach, boosts trust
  • Key relationships: important connections that the journalist is familiar with can validate you
  • Big-name board members: if Garry Tan of Y Combinator is on your board that’s a quick trust boost.
    (HT Aaron Thomasson on this one!)
  • Third-party analyst reports: objective research or data that mentions your brand boosts trust.
    (HT Aaron Thomasson on this one!)

It’s important to note, while trust channels can give you access to a journalist, you still need a great story to get press. When focusing on press opportunities, many founders incorrectly assume their story is the value. Not true.

Value to a journalist is a readily apparent story their readers will click on. They get dozens of pitches, if not hundreds per week. The story that is more readily apparent and valuable to their audience gets their attention. Briefly, the difference in a subject line might be, “New company using AI to solve global hunger,” vs “Robot-farmers feeding thousands. No humans needed.”

Money talks. But so do dozens, if not hundreds of trust channels.

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Hi, I’m Justin Brady. I amplify inventive companies (and their people) to new audiences by identifying and utilizing their customer’s trust channels. I wrote for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and I hosted the founders of Starbucks, Hint and Ancestry.com on my podcast.
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