Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Could Hillary Clinton's Startup Strategy land her in the White House?

Paul Chen

By the way Hillary Clinton is running her campaign so far, you would have a hard time believing that she's running for the President of the United States.  The way she's doing it, you might be forgiven for thinking she's running a startup. She must have been inspired by her recent trip to Silicon Valley.  

Granted, almost everyone knows that she's been eyeing that seat in the Oval Office ever since Bill left office.  First the NY State Senate seat, then serving her country as one of the best Secretary of State of recent memory.  Now that Obama is leaving in January 2017, the only one in her way is Elizabeth Warren, but Senator Warren declared that she wasn't running this time.  According to Nate Silver, even though she's got a 50% chance, it is still better than probably the Republican candidates.  So Why isn't she strutting out to some big grand hall?

A low key entrance

Her announcement to run came in the form of a simple video.  She doesn't even appear until more than half way into it.  She focused the narrative on the characters in the story rather than herself.  The reason might be that she has been burned for being self-important in the past so she is taking the low key approach.  It has gotten mostly positive reviews. Mika Brzenski said that she liked this way of rolling out.  The video also had a startup feel to it in the sense that it had some nice music in the background and people talking about their dreams and hopes.  

Customer Development is Key

Many startups have been known to go with other startups on road trips to connect and meet people.  And Clinton is following suit.  She is driving in a van with her staff to different places to meet her customers and doing it almost person to person.  She will be listening to the voters and really getting a good sense of what they want and what are their pains.  As a result of this approach, she can get on the stage and offer some real proposals that they will actually listen to.  

I was speaking to Jakub Krzych, founder of Estimote the other day.  He told me that good founders stays in the office developing on the product and the only time he goes out is to meet customers and business partners.  Estimote have tried to stay away from the conference speaking circuit this year to build a more solid product.  This approach is allowed because they have revenue coming in from some solid business partners.  The same can be said with Hillary Clinton.  Another advantage for Hillary is that she has raised more money than half of the Republican candidates combined, reportedly over $2B.  As a result, she can afford not to have to go to galas and big time events and really work on her pitch and do some serious customer development.    Eric Cantor learned a big lesson when he was out primaried by Dave Brat.  Cantor spent most of his time in DC hob nobbbing with the rich and powerful when Brat was in his district talking to the voters.  The result? Brat will be going to DC and Cantor will be out of a job.

Slow and steady wins the race

The race to the White House is still a bit over a year and a half to go.  Given the 24 hour news cycle as with the 24 hour tech news cycle, this 18 months can seem like a lifetime.  She isn't as young and full of energy as Marco Rubio is, so she needs to really pick her time and place to go grand.  With the advent of Apps like Periscope and Meerkat, you really have to be careful. One wrong move or thing taken out of context this early in the race can be deadly.   Therefore, by starting off quiet and build up the momentum slowly is the way to go.

And like any good startup, she has won the internet on day 2 with her nutty Error 404 page. A silly picture of Bill, Donald Duck, Chelsea and Hillary in that goofy hat? This is a politician who is not afraid to be silly and shows a hint of being normal and vulnerability that has already won the heart of the internet.  

Whatever happens in the next 19 months, we can at least say, that Hillary won Round 1. 

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