AngelList is now a critical part of the startup toolkit. It helps emergent companies attract talent and investors, and apply to incubators. Learn how GoodApril was able to “trend” on AngelList, and the benefits of doing so.
Why “Trending” on AngelList Matters
Attracting a large following on AngelList is helpful for raising money, hiring employees, and gathering the “social proof” that other startup-insiders think your idea is compelling. There are thousands of startups listed on AngelList, but only a few are highly visible at any moment – these are either “featured” (curated by the AngelList team) or “trending” (adding lots of followers in a short period of time), and are listed on the website and in a weekly email to users.
Partially as a result of being featured as a trending startup, GoodApril was able to attract 175 followers on AngelList, the majority of whom had no prior connection to us, within one week of listing on the platform. The talent service found a match of mutual interest between us and 21 job candidates, and gave us exposure to at least 100 more over the next month. While GoodApril has not pursued external funding, when we do, we already have several investors who have pre-emptively expressed interest through the platform.
How to Get Your Startup Into the “Trending” Section
The basic key to trending is to add as many followers in as short a time period as possible. It’s not formally stated, but we believe that AngelList also considers how “popular” the people are who are following you – so it’s most valuable to add followers who have a large number of followers themselves.
Ironically, the most effective way to gather new followers for your startup is to be listed in the “trending” section of the website in the first place. What it takes to be successful at growing your follower base, therefore, is to rapidly harvest your own network, and then ride the wave of new “organic” followers as you begin to trend to stay there.
How to Get Prepared:
- Find all your allies already on AngelList – If you use other social networking tools like LinkedIn, it is very easy to find your network on AngelList. Click your profile, then “Find Friends,” and connect your social network profiles. You are presented with a list of people in your network already on AngelList – comb through this list a bit and begin following people you actually know or whose updates you might find interesting.
- Prioritize your allies for outreach – Now go to your own profile, click the number of people you are “Following”, then “All [XXX] following.” This presents a full list of the people you just added or were already following. Take this list and move it into a spreadsheet. Put the number of followers each of these people has into a second column and sort. This is your prioritized list for outreach.
- Ask your most prominent non-investor advocate to be your “referrer” – Using your new “allies on AngelList” spreadsheet, you now have a hit-list of potential “referrers”. It’s not publicly stated how this person influences your listing, but they are prominently listed on your profile page. I recommend contacting and getting a commitment from this person in advance.
- Get your non-AngelList Allies Listed – Ask any advisors, employees, investors, lawyers, or other advocates who aren’t already on the service to create a profile in advance of publishing. Ask, in particular, that they include a photo – a profile page full of photo-less profiles is shady.
Begin your Outreach:
- Begin building your profile in “draft” mode – You can add your advisors, lawyers, investors, and referrer while your company is still in “draft” mode. This enables you to get all your loose ends together before publishing.
- Go “live” and individually email your allies – While it is tempting to send a blast email to ask folks to follow you, refrain. Individual emails, with some thoughtful work put into crafting it to your relationship and most recent conversations, are critical to driving up the number of people who actually take the trouble to click “follow.” So bust out your prioritized list of people in your network, and start emailing. Pro tip: draft these emails before you go live so you can just click “send” on launch day.
- Publish to Social Media – This should be obvious, but it’s also a good idea to send out a call for help to your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Tell your friends that you’ve debuted on AngelList and that their “follow” will help you get noticed by potential investors (this message seems to be easily understood by people even unfamiliar with tech startups). We found that this was a helpful way to have a second “touch” with our network to remind them about the individual email we had sent earlier in the day.
- Do follow-ups 3 days later - Even writing individual emails, it took us nearly 200 emails and a social media blast to reach ~75 followers. We pulled in another 10 or so by going back through our list of new followers, cross-referencing that to our Allies list, and sending a follow-up to the folks we thought were likely to support us.
Timing your Listing (and Trending) on AngelList
The only real benchmark for success for a company is ultimately growing a large base of customers who value and pay (directly or indirectly) for your service. Despite knowing this, it is very seductively ego-boosting to watch your company’s base of followers grow. Try not to get too distracted by it.
As I mentioned at the start, we saw many quantifiable benefits of trending on AngelList. Other incredible benefits included getting noticed by some folks in the accounting industry, who provided the first bit of press attention for us. An investor spotted us and introduced us to the executive team at a major player in our industry, which led to valuable business development meetings. Finally, we saw significant traffic to our site and dozens of prospect customer signups.
There is a cost to trending, however. It takes valuable time and attention from the founders – you have to do the cost-benefit analysis yourself on that one. It’s also hard to sustain, and you more or less have one good shot at it (until your product and/or investment news is powerful enough to bring on a second or third wave). Others have written that you shouldn’t post until you are already mid-way into your fundraising cycle. In our case, we listed before we were even seeking funding, and we’re happy we did.
That’s our story, but if you want to hear another entrepreneur’s experience, check out Justin Thiele’s article with his advice and experience with trending on AngelList.
Do you have an AngelList success story of your own to share? Please leave a comment!