How to get your startup noticed by TechCrunch (or anyone else)

Ever wanted to get your startup into TechCrunch? It starts with nailing your story – and possibly being Batman.

TechCrunch’s editor-at-large, Josh Constine, told an audience at Myriad that the key to getting him to open an email about your startup lay in a simple three-part story.

“It starts with finding your startup’s purpose,” said Constine. “The one thing that all good startups have in common is that they solve a real need.

“Zeroing in on this problem is the foundation of your startup’s story.”

He said each story boiled down to three parts:

  • What problem do you solve?
  • How do you solve the problem?
  • Why are you going to win at this?

The big three

Why is there a big pain point here?

“This problem shouldn’t be where there’s already a tool which solves most of this problem adequately but your startup does it just a little better,” said Constine.

“That’s what I call linear innovation, and it’s hard to build a big startup out of that.”

He also said that those who avoided buzzwords and tech jargon would be well-placed.

How do you do it?

Constine said that the next step was to succinctly describe how your startup solves the problem and how it’s useful.

If you’re struggling to find what that solution is and why it’s valuable – you probably need to go back to the drawing board. It needs to be clear as day to you for other people to get it,” said Constine.

He also said hyping your startup by being ‘the next Facebook’ was poison.

“I don’t want you to go out there and say ‘We’re the next Facebook or the next Uber’. This is the easiest way to get press or investors to immediately tune you out because they hear that all day long.

“It’s what want-trepreneuers say.

“Don’t tell me that you’re going to be game-changing or you’re going to shift the paradigm, just explains what your product does in clear, concrete terms and explain who the market for it is.”

“You want to be the startup Batman”

The third step in refining your pitch is explaining why your team or founder is the best-placed to solve the problem.

That might include noting how much traction you have, or that your team is full of PhDs, that you have big-name investors already or your founder has already built and sold a company in this space,” said Constine.

He also said it was a great opportunity to flesh out a “superhero origin story”.

“This is basically a tale, often from your youth, about a formative experience which propelled you to create this startup and see it through to the end,” said Constine.

He gave the example of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who founded Square because his father was always being slugged a flat credit card transaction fee – whether he was selling a fridge or a slice of pizza.

Now you have the story down – how do you pitch to TechCrunch?

Email actually works! (if you do it right)

“One of the most common ways to pitch your startup is through email – a lot of people hate it and I won’t really read my email, but I will scan the subject lines and if something jumps out at me I will go in and write about it,” said Constine.

“Don’t think you need some sort of special connection to press or to TechCrunch, or that you have to have some great investor that makes that warm introduction first. That’s not always true.”

So, what’s the key to getting Constine (or anybody else) to open that email?

“When you write those emails, the best strategy I’ve found is to take that solution and put it in the subject line,” said Constine.

“Use the first three sentences…start with the problem, then describe your solution and why you’re the person to do it.”

Crucially, Constine said, stop there.

He said a common problem is that startups wanting coverage simply flooded him with material, whether it’s a pitch deck, PR release, or links to previous coverage.

“I don’t want to read a 2000 word article – I want to write that article later. To start the conversation, I just want you to give me the bare bones on why I should care,” said Constine.

“Then just let me know that I can get in touch with you if I want more information. That’s how you hook somebody. “