Founder-Led Marketing

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We are living in the golden age of founder-led marketing.

You might’ve noticed it feels like every entrepreneur tweets like a madman, writes LinkedIn posts up the wazoo, and has a newsletter. Maybe they’ve got a podcast too. Every founder is now also a creator. Why?

Well, it’s not just for fun. It’s because founder-led marketing makes moolah. More customers. More VC checks. More talented employees. Distribution is a magnet. The bigger the distribution, the more powerful the magnet.

This week alone, I saw 5 examples of amazing founder-led marketing that made me have to write this article. Let’s check ‘em out.

1. Zuck’s attack on the Vision Pro

On Tuesday, Zuck posted a 3-minute video on Instagram of him explaining why he thinks the Vision Pro is worse than his Meta Quest.

The video blew up on Twitter with 30M+ views. Overall, I think a VC named Sheel Mohnot captured the popular sentiment.

No one agreed with Zuck that the Quest 3 is better, but that didn’t matter.

Here’s the billionaire founder of the 20-year-old Meta posting a casual vertical video and fighting for his company like he’s an 18-year-old startup founder eating ramen and hacking away in his dorm room.

Zuck could be hanging on some island retired, but nah he’s fighting as aggressive as ever. You gotta respect the hustle and fire.

2. Sam Altman’s Sora thread

On Thursday, Sam Altman announced the release of OpenAI’s new text-to-video model Sora. The world was collectively mindblown.

But it was what he did next that was so rare in corporate culture. He tweeted out “we'd like to show you what sora can do, please reply with captions for videos you'd like to see and we'll start making some!”

Then for the next several hours, he quote-tweeted people’s replies with videos generated from Sora. Golden retrievers podcasting. A futuristic drone sunset on Mars. Dolphins riding bikes. Of course the internet went nuts.

And this wasn’t some ghostwriter or whatever. It was Sam Altman just being his regular smart, nice Sam Altman self. It was free marketing genius that can only be done by someone who really knows the internet and his community.

3. Product Hunt CEO helps new launches

Coincidentally about an hour before Altman’s thread, Product Hunt’s CEO Rajiv Ayyangar coincidentally started a similar thread.

Rajiv then responded to 100+ comments asking for help on their product taglines (slogans) with thought-out, well-crafted ideas and fixes. This wasn’t a ghostwriter, it was just Rajiv authentically helping his community. Love it.

4. The Gundo gang

What do you think of when you hear the word tech founder?

Maybe a geeky young Zuck coding away on software comes to mind.

Well, not in The Gundo.

Out in El Segundo, CA aka “The Gundo”, there’s a gang of badass tech founders working in factories on hard-tech like robotics, drones, and missiles all in the mission to make America high-tech and safe.

They’re brilliant engineers and nerds—yes, but they’re jacked, cigarette-smoking red-white-and-blue-blooded Americans working on hard problems like ending global water scarcity with drones (yes, really.)

Take for example Augustus Doricko, the mullet-sporting founder of Rainmaker. This video is unironically some of the best founder-led marketing I’ve seen.

May I remind you this is a job posting.

He’s got a mullet and smokes a cig.

No, it won't attract every engineer.

It'll repel 99% of them. But for the 1% of people in the target market that fit the culture, they’ll move heaven and earth to work there—which is what they want.

5. Palmer Luckey the Hawaiian shirt king

Ok this wasn’t technically from this week, but I saw an old podcast with founder Palmer Luckey this week that was perfect for this.

Palmer is a weird brilliant dude. He founded Oculus when he was 19 and sold it at 23 for $2B. He now runs a defense company called Anduril making missiles for the US government. Oh yeah, he’s got a goatee and also wears Hawaiian shirts everyday. He has 60+ of them.

When the host asks Palmer if he wears anything but Hawaiian shirts, here’s what Palmer says: “I don’t really need to. I like wearing them and people expect them of me if I had showed up in something else I'd be getting I'd been getting shit over it.” Palmer is so unapologetically himself that he’s built a personal brand where people would be pissed off if he WASN’T wearing a Hawaiian shirt. People love him for being him and would be pissed if he acted different.

“Many of Anduril’s best PR moments have come from letting Palmer be Palmer,” wrote Palmer’s old Head of Communications at Anduril. Case and point. Let the nerds be the nerds. This leaves me with the takeaway.

Founders, be unapologetically you.

palmer luckey marketing

If you’re a sarcastic jerk sending memes in all your group chats with friends, be that person on social media.

If you’re a happy bubbly smiley person who sends emojis with every text, be that person on social media.

If you’re a chain-smoking-mullet-wearing engineer or Hawaiian-shirt-donning-missile-making genius, be that person on social media.

Founders, stop overthinking your social media presence—start underthinking. Be unapologetically yourself. You can build an audience and personal brand and make money with all of these ways. The only thing that matters is authenticity. Are you being your offline self online?

People can sniff out fakeness from a mile away. And in a world full of fakeness, true authenticity is magnetic—even if that means occasionally being a jerk (we still love Elon, sometimes there needs to be a jerk who says the hard things).

I know this goes against everything school taught you about being nice and professional online, but the internet ain’t school baby. This is the mf internet and the most authentic, shameless, and unapologetic wins. Even if you have a ghostwriter, you can be authentically you. Just make sure that they can write in your voice and understand your beliefs. It’s really that simple.

Stop overthinking, start underthinking, be unapologetically yourself.

P.S. I’ve been ghostwriting for founders for 3+ years. If you’re happy and bubbly, I can write in that voice. If you’re a sarcastic witty jerk, I can write in that voice. The only bad clients I’ve ever had are the ones who don’t know who they are. The most important part for me as a ghostwriter is for you the founder to not be afraid to be unapologetically yourself whoever that may be.

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Thanks for reading, nerds.

Let’s blow up the internet together.

Jason Levin