"If you want something good, get it from yourself." — Epictetus


For too long, founders have yielded control over their narratives to media and middlemen.

Before the internet, it was by necessity. The way to reach large audiences was through the media, and the way to get media coverage was through professional publicists.

Today, most of the planet is directly reachable through social media or email. There’s no longer a need to go through traditional gatekeepers of information and brokers of reputation — especially as their own credibility has plummeted.

The old PR playbook of relying on third parties with misaligned interests is obsolete.

But while the world has changed, comms norms have not. Still encased in amber are the old habits: prioritizing media over social media, fishing for clicks instead of fostering communities, and avoiding risk by recycling worn-out tactics.

“Corporate communications” itself is now an oxymoron, as nothing meaningful can be communicated by a faceless committee. If press releases read like they were written by a baker’s dozen of middle managers, that’s because they were. Their only discernible purpose seems to be to avoid upsetting anyone and jeopardizing the future job prospects of those middle managers.

The resulting stories are bland and generic, with passion reduced to pablum. Traditional comms is an anachronism.


For a decade, we’ve been told that tech founders are cartoon villains, venture-funded startups are grifts, and new technologies will destroy us all.

Maybe there was a time when founders could just focus on building — they were seen by the media establishment as a curiosity, not a threat to the natural hierarchy who needed to be put in their place. But if that time ever existed, it is now long gone.

You may not be interested in The Discourse, but it is interested in you. And if you bow out, you are forfeiting your license to build a movement and thus build a company.

Building a movement is hard, but it must be done, and it must be done by founders. A founder’s passion, vision, and conviction can’t be simulated by others — least of all the press-release-enjoying middle managers already scouting for their next jobs.

The best spokesperson for any endeavor is not the one who has the most polish, the longest tenure, or the "right" credentials. It’s the person who holds the secret knowledge upon which the enterprise is built, the person who can not only describe the idea but, in the face of inevitable opposition, fight for it and win.

Founders need to take their narrative as seriously as they take the rockets or robots. They would never outsource their product — and when it comes to convincing others to support the mission, the story is the product. Outsourcing comms is as bad as outsourcing code.

As evangelists, founders are irreplaceable.


Going direct to the people who matter is how founders retain control over their narratives and preserve their companies’ uniqueness. Those who are stubborn, unorthodox, and disagreeable should never have their edges filed down for fear of offending entrenched interests.

But going direct doesn’t mean going it alone. It doesn’t mean refusing help or spurning others who can amplify your message. And it certainly doesn’t mean just poasting more.

Going direct means crafting and telling your own story, without being dependent on intermediaries.

Just as founders might have more natural talents at product, management, or engineering, some founders will be naturals at communicating while others have a harder time.

The good news is that going direct and building a movement, while not easy, are skills that can be developed with discipline and time. The bad news is that, unlike with engineering or management, communications failures are immediately public and personally humiliating. It’s not surprising that many are loath to take on this responsibility.

At the same time, founders willing to pick up that gauntlet will find that it gives them a massive edge in recruiting, fundraising, selling, and shaping the information environment needed for their companies to thrive.


At the center of Rome, as it transitioned from a Republic to an Empire, stood a speaker’s platform from which the city’s leaders would address the public directly.

It was called the Rostra, so named because it stood atop the captured battle rams (or rostrums) of enemy warships. From here, speeches were given that would sway opinion, change regimes, and alter history.

That physical structure has been lost to time, but we now have something much more powerful: a free and open internet with which to build a speaker’s platform of limitless scale. All we need is the will to build it.

The conventional way of communicating has its allure. Outsource your message, let some removed third party go through the motions of getting “impressions,” and spare yourself the risks and discomfort that come with putting your own name on the line.

But that way is incompatible with greatness.

Reject convention — build your own platform, build your own audience, and build your own narrative.

Go direct.


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