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Startups: Welcome Back to Humanity

Founders need to get the ship back on course.

The 2010s have been a complete fucking mess. Scandal after leak after scandal aft… It has been absolutely endless. And it’s had a profound effect on the way a large number of people not just think about, but also behave on the internet. Because of the endless tsunami of shit, everyone has had to deal with over the last decade or so online, the implicit trust that once existed has disappeared. So it only makes sense that a core value of design that was laid to the side briefly can be seen re-emerging — A focus on the humans behind the screen, their fears and wants, and then working out how to provide value to them.

The time of buying advertisements to gain hundreds of users who will then market the product for you and tell all their friends is ending, and “growth hacking” is being found out for what it is, just spam under a new guise. These referrals need to be earned now rather than bought, we must focus on the humanity behind what we offer, focus on how it can help someone, and then work out how to explain that offer in a way someone will not just understand, but relate to.

The common adage of “Built it and they will come” no longer applies in a world where there are 50 different competitors to every product, and a robot sending messaging on LinkedIn all day long — fighting for a moment of attention.

Instead of following this path of veiled spam, construct an offering people give a fuck about. To do this, you must first give a fuck. About who it’s for. About what it does. About where you can tell people about it. Focusing on these three factors will help you to get outside of your own head and put yourself in the mindset of the human on the other side of the screen. Show them your passion and explain how it will help someone and research the living hell out of your ideal user, to make sure you can offer something they will relate to. With this information on your perfect user, you can build a persona, an imaginary human you test your latest offerings against.

Personas identify who we can help and alter the behaviour of, to fit into our ecosystem. They represent the lifeblood of any business and allow you to understand how you can tailor your offering perfectly to the person judging it, and making the decision on if they should become a user.

To build a persona, you must first understand the person that you’re helping. Are they a student? In full-time employment? Have they got a family? What motivates them? Where do they spend their time? — You’ve got the research the person you’re creating things for, find out what they love, and then find a way to tell them a story they relate to and can envision themselves taking action upon. Your persona is the gateway to a trusting user, showing someone something that has an impact upon another human being, something they can relate to and make part of their story.

As we move into the 2020s, we’ll see a greater focus on connection again, on relationships and engagement. There will be a smaller focus on unreliable data like impressions, as these just represent eyes, people we’ve interrupted, they say nothing of the emotions happening on the other side of the screen.

This focus on a connection will allow you to execute in a way that will set your company and your brand apart, by just how damn well you understand and design for your audience.

Over time you’ll be able to iterate that offering to provide something that your audience will not only love but want to tell all of their friends too. If you dedicate the time, and it will show. Spend that time in the shoes of your user and stop letting robots do all the talking for you, like Elon Musk recently said, humans, are underrated.

“Excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.”

Even ya boy Elon has admitted the robots can’t take over everything, so we haven’t got to worry about Skynet just yet. The robots can never take over things like human connection, relatability and the power to tell a story away. Use those gifts wisely to set you and your startup apart. Always centre what you create on the humans behind the screen.

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