14 Sep You’ve Only Got One Shot At Building A Consumer Unicorn
Imagine if the founder of a very successful consumer technology company knocked on your door and offered to get you in on the ground floor of their new enterprise. Almost any VC would jump at the chance, as would most engineers and designers. But I wonder if they’re most often making a mistake?
I can point to a number of founders who have had repeat success in B2B markets. Founders who have repeatedly built and sold companies for hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars. It’s really hard to think of any on the consumer side of the market.
When I’m talking about consumer products, I don’t mean anything for which a customer pays. In the scope of this piece, “consumer” startups are ones where a company’s value comes from the “large network of engaged users” who drive the platform. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest — even Tinder.
Serial Entrepreneurs In Consumer
Below is a list of entrepreneurs that most people think of when it comes to serial entrepreneurship in the consumer space. But as I found through my research, only one of them has been able to galvanize a large network of engaged users over and over again: Evan Williams.
Evan Williams: He sold Blogger to Google before going on to found Twitter. If he was to start another publishing-focused platform, it would be wise to team up.
Jack Dorsey: Twitter is a massive consumer business, but Square isn’t a pure consumer play. Sure, they sell their card readers and customers use the app, but it’s as much a B2B tool as a consumer-facing app.
Elon Musk: PayPal and Tesla are both well-known consumer brands, and SpaceX is probably the best-known space industry outside of NASA. However, Musk’s genius has less to do with galvanizing large numbers of users and is more a result of his talent and willingness to contend with industries that feature insane levels of regulation.
Jeff Raider: Raider co-founded Warby Parker, and subsequently founded razor upstart Harry’s. This is a rare example of the skill set working, in this case identifying a market distorted by cartel-like pricing and attacking it with a solid brand and cost-effective customer acquisition. But again, the company has no network effects. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were founders with several e-commerce wins under their belts.