When Vijay Chattha was building a startup, his competitor was what some would call a media darling. The competition had a good story, which created investor interest. In turn, that interest helped land key customers. And so the cycle repeated. Chattha eventually sold that company in a lukewarm exit and took with him an important lesson: Earned media has the power to be a kingmaker.
Chattha is now the founder and CEO of VSC, a public relations firm that has helped launch over 600 companies. The firm works with startups across all stages and recently introduced a $21 million venture firm to back the companies that it advises. (Or, as Chattha puts it, to put some skin in the game).
Now, 20 years in, Chattha has thoughts regarding how tech’s cyclical nature has impacted its relationship with media, the power of sharing real numbers and whether founders should prepare to fall on their sword in the name of transparency.
“I think it’s a dangerous thing. It’s like water. If you don’t have publicity, you can be dehydrated. But if you have too much you can drown.” Vijay Chattha
Below, we extracted several key excerpts from the interview for your reading pleasure.
What’s your temperature reading on how vulnerable founders are right now when it comes to sharing hardships publicly?
Vijay Chattha: It depends on the founder. Is it their first startup, their second or their third? Generally what I find is the more successful and the more wisdom you have, the more transparent you are over time, and possibly even cynical, right? But the first-time founders, they’re under a lot of pressure [to do] whatever the VCs or hired people around them are telling them to do. They’ve got to do it. They’re very concerned that the competitors are reading this stuff.