When Vijay Chattha was building a startup, its competitor was what some would call a media darling. The contest had a good story, which sparked interest from investors. In turn, this interest helped attract key customers. And so the cycle repeated itself. Chatta eventually sold that business in a lukewarm exit and took an important lesson with it: earned media has the power to be a kingmaker.
Chattha is now the founder and CEO of VSC, a public relations firm that has helped launch over 600 businesses. The firm works with startups at all stages and recently introduced a $21 million venture capital firm to back the companies it advises. (Or, as Chattha puts it, to put some skin in the game).
Now, 20 years later, Chattha reflects on the impact of the cyclical nature of technology on its relationship with the media, the power of sharing hard numbers, and whether founders should prepare to stumble upon their sword in the name of transparency.
“I think it’s a dangerous thing. It’s like water. If you don’t have publicity, you may be dehydrated. But if you have too much, you can drown. Vijay Chatta
My entire conversation with the entrepreneur can be found anywhere you listen to podcasts, so listen up if you prefer audio over words (in which case, what are you doing here‽).
Below, we’ve excerpted several key excerpts from the interview for your reading pleasure.
What’s your temperature reading on founders’ vulnerability right now when it comes to publicly sharing hardships?
Vijay Chattha: It depends on the founder. Is this their first startup, their second or their third? In general, what I find is that the more successful and wise you are, the more transparent you are over time, and maybe even cynical, right? But first-time founders, they’re under a lot of pressure [to do] whatever the VCs or people hired around them tell them to do. They have to. They are very worried about competitors reading this stuff.