John RameyA top mentor on Clarity. Founder/investor.

One of the highest rated startup mentors in the world (and on Clarity). I've founded, built, and sold multiple prominent companies that have either created or fundamentally changed multi-billion-dollar markets (eg. a New York Times cover profile called my last startup "the voice of a movement.") Advisor to White House, Congress, and many other governments and ecosystem building initiatives (eg. I co-founded the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Unit). Directly raised >$125M in VC, and was a key part of >$1.5B in fundraising. Youngest founder in the world to raise VC during the global financial crisis. Founded an international nonprofit of the highest-quality startup mentors, and have helped over 20,000 founders/innovators in >50 countries. Successful angel investor with top 10% returns. 100's of big media hits. Pulitzer nominee.

As a mentor, I'm known for being empathetic but brutally honest. I quickly understand and zero in on what's important. A "force multiplier" who respects your time/money; mentees say they save 10s, 100s, or 1000s of hours by spending small amounts of time with me. I don't just regurgitate the five slides/tweets you've already seen about generic startup advice.

I can help you with almost any topic an entrepreneur faces in their journey. Main topics tend to be fundraising and pitch mechanics, dealing with co-founders/boards/corporate issues, figuring out MVP and PMF, hiring/scaling/managing a team, exits/acquisitions, and dealing with the private/personal issues that every founder faces but struggles to talk about.

If you're not sure if I can help, send me a message and I'll give you feedback on whether it's worth your time to book me.

Recent Answers

At this point, move on from dealing with this. Focus on the business. Grow it. Traction solves most problems.

Given that marketing / growing a two sided marketplace business is one of the more difficult things you can do in the realm of startups, there's no canned answer to that question. It can depend on the business. You need to seek help from experts, of which Clarity has a few of the top ones in this space.

Yep. Although I don't think that's limited to MVPs. It's just always the case.

You can copy code, features, etc. but you can't copy soul. There will always be people who copy you. It's better to keep moving forward and accept the copy cats than it would be to try and shield yourself.

Keep an eye on the copy cats. But in the long run, if you're authentic and worthy, you will beat them.

Look to history - there are lots of legal services that have tried this and failed. What did they do or not do?

Unfortunately, you can't always turn something into a viral marketplace. IMHO there are too many built-in disincentives in the legal world to create the kind of viral loops you're looking for.

I'm a fan of the model where in order to get feedback / have it affect your profile and ranking, you have to give feedback first. So whomever gives feedback first it's held in escrow until the other party does it too.

I assume you want to do the work of marketing/rebranding, not necessarily be the "executive" who does management and stuff (which is boring!).

You said you like music and culture. The good news is that a lot of music/cultural organizations need help with marketing. Even local bands need help. You could approach it like a free internship - try and find people locally that you can help. They'll appreciate the free help, you'll learn a TON, and build a network and portfolio along the way.

Totally depends on the nature of your startup. Assuming it's a "normal" tech/software/app kind of startup, given your TC reference....

There is publicity you pay for (advertising), you earned (did something the press wanted to write about), or you generate (like building an infographic that goes viral).

Assuming you mean traditional press, the normal outlets are: TechCrunch, VentureBeat, GigaOm, Mashable, and PandoDaily. Other publications also include startup coverage, like WSJ, Forbes, Wired, Inc, FastCo, etc.

But be warned that these are press outlets. They want to cover *stories*. You don't just approach them and say "publicize me"... unless you want to pay for the ad space to do so.

If you want to buy space on those sites, check out

(Background: I founded the largest marketplace for direct ad sales. Powers sites like Microsoft, Aol, Gawker, etc)

If you want to sell ads directly to advertisers... that's awesome, but recognize it takes more work than just dropping AdSense on your site. I'm glad you're thinking of it like "how can I attract advertisers (customers) to do business with me?"

I personally don't think gimmicks work well in the long run. It's all about the fundamentals. You are essentially a business (the website) that sells a product (the ad space / ability to reach your audience) to customers (the advertisers).

All the normal fundamentals apply - you have to attract potential customers, sell them on your product, close the business, get repeat business, etc.

So while a gimmick may work to get someones attention, if their experience of doing business with you is terrible they won't buy or won't come back.

We believe the best way to attract, close and keep advertisers is to make your "products" as easy to find and purchase as possible. In the direct ad space, it is way too complicated - often requiring lots of emails and manual effort. Plus they have to find you to begin with.

Some actionable stuff for you to do:

* Do some customer validation. If you want to sell a product (the ad space), how do you know there is a market? Have you talked to potential advertisers about this? Do you have any pre-committed deals? Do your similar competitors do direct sales successfully?

* Have a .com/advertise page and promote it well. You have to let people know you're open for business. Make it easy for people to find it.

* Have a system that makes it easy to place/execute/manage actual ad orders. This is what we do at There are other tools for various needs, website sizes, costs, etc.

Source: I founded a major display ad tech business.

(What about Google's prediction of $100B by 2017?)

I believe there are a few key things that need to change:

Publishers need to wake up and stop forcing buyers to use old school hand-to-hand combat direct sales methods (where 70% of the current market $ is). Make it easier for people to buy from you, and more people will buy from you!

Transactional friction must decrease. It is 10 TIMES more expensive to spend a dollar on a TV ad as it is to spend a dollar on a banner ad. (3 cents per branding dollar for TV, 30 cents for web.)

We need measurement practices and attribution other than the click through rate, which was good for performance marketing but bad for branding. The big budgets want something better in order to track their spending.

Engaging but unobtrusive creative formats. "When's the last time a banner made you cry?" Sight, sound, and motion on TV are still far better than banners at eliciting emotion. This needs to get figured out in order to enlarge the market.

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