What To Do About The Startup Seagulls

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Andrew Chen has a smart post on the concept of the startup seagull. No, that’s not a typo. What exactly is a startup seagull? I’ll let Andrew explain:

Inspired by the tech community’s recent usage and dissing of every new product that comes to market- The rapid cycle of tech news and new products from startups has created what can only be described as a Startup Seagull:

  • First, they hear about a new product
  • They dive in to try it out
  • Then, they shit all over the place. “This product is horrible!” Preferably in public, on a blog or Twitter
  • Finally, they fly away, never to use the product again

As someone who has consulted startups of many varieties and done analysis on acquisition / retention, Andrew is correct that the seagull phenomenon is real. But what should you do about it? I’d vote for trying to keep as many of the seagulls as you can.

Here are just a few thoughts on what to do about the startup seagulls:

1. If your space is super competitive, launch with more than just minimum viable product. If you are really breaking ground and doing something unique you might be able to get away with the bare bones but if you are simply launching to launch and not offering anything sticky, of course the seagulls are going to fly away.

2. Have a plan to nurture new users / re-engage those who start to stray. Far too many startups launch and don’t even get proper contact information (no, getting people to sign in with an identity service isn’t enough: get email addresses!). Have a plan in place to trigger (useful) emails at key times, either based on usage of lack of usage. These could include tips / tricks, quick calls to action, or invitations to try out new features you’ve added. Don’t overdo it but do think about how you can get people to come back and use your product enough times it becomes a habit.

3. Do realize: some birds were meant to fly. There is the type of user who is just interested in trying something new and then flying off to the next thing. Analyze behavior, segment your users and communications accordingly and set goals for attrition that are realistic so you don’t get frustrated.

4. Listen to the squawking seagulls. If you’re creating a startup you should have thick skin. I know it’s difficult but don’t take the feedback too personally or let it get you down. If you have people reacting loudly (and negatively) to what you’re doing, you should be excited: at least they are reacting. Instead of getting upset, listen to what they’re saying and see if there is any useful feedback you can use to improve your product. Also try “killing them with kindness.” Let them know you’re listening and want to address their issues.

These are of course just a few ideas –what do you do to address the seagulls?

image credit: Shutterstock