When Vijay Chattha was building a startup, its competitor was what some would call a media darling. The competition had a good story, which got investors interested. That interest, in turn, helped bring in key clients. And so the cycle repeated itself. Chattha eventually sold that company in a lukewarm exit, taking with it an important lesson: Earned media has the power to be a kingmaker.
Chattha is now the founder and CEO of VSC, a PR firm that has helped launch more than 600 companies. The firm works with startups at all stages and recently launched a $21 million venture firm to support the companies it advises. (Or, as Chattha puts it, to bring some skin into play).
Now, 20 years later, Chattha has thoughts on how the cyclical nature of technology has impacted its relationship with media, the power of sharing real numbers, and whether founders should prepare to fall on 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 can get dehydrated. But if you have too much, you can drown.” Vijay Chattha
My whole 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 have extracted some key excerpts from the interview for your reading pleasure.
What’s your temperature reading on how vulnerable founders are right now when it comes to sharing hardships publicly?
Vijay Chattha: It depends on the founder. Is it their first startup, their second or their third? In general, I find that the more successful and the more wisdom you have, the more transparent you are over time, and possibly even cynical, right? But the early founders are under a lot of pressure [to do] whatever the VCs or hired people around them tell them to do. They have to do it. They are very concerned that the competitors are reading this stuff.