Traction Role Models

In the middle of building a startup, I’ve found it helpful to have what I call traction role models.

These are friends and contacts at other startups whose businesses have climbed one or two rungs higher on the traction ladder than yours. If you’re raising a seed round, they’ve just finished their Series A. If you have 10,000 users, they have 200,000. They’re a bit further ahead of the curve than you, and they’ve probably already experienced some of the things you’ll be seeing as your startup evolves.

Traction role models are great sources of advice which is,

  1. Timely. It’s relevant now.
  2. Actionable. It leads to a tangible change or improvement.

By contrast, people who are way ahead of you in the game often have suggestions which are actionable, but not timely. A founder who did a startup ten years ago, or has already exited, usually falls into this category.

Friends in your same traction cohort will probably be experiencing the same ups and downs, so their recommendations are definitely timely, but not necessarily actionable, because who knows what the outcome will be.

A traction role model has to be someone you know personally, can hit up for advice regularly, and expect to return your emails. Not the CEO of a hot startup who gets hundreds of emails a day (unless he’s a personal friend from pre-hotness days). Not a super angel. An operator, someone in the trenches.

I draw upon the advice of my own traction role models all the time (you know who you are :-) and I’m extremely thankful for it. They’re all part of the larger support network surrounding each startup—team members, investors, advisors, friends—but when you need potent, timely guidance, go to your traction role models first.