Swag. A common item in the handbag of tricks that startups use to get attention and instill excitement.
Here at Braid Labs @idangazit and I recently discussed means to get our name out, and in these discussions, came across the all too familiar idea to get t-shirts. Everyone does it, so why shouldn't we? For the minimal amount of work (and money) expended to get shirts, it has to be worth it for some notoriety, but is it really?
As far as I can tell, there are two distinct measures for giving out a shirt and measuring its worth,
1) it should add value to the recipient
maybe as a reward? as a prize? as a thank you? we want people to love us, and secondary to that, hopefully they'll talk about us
2) it should incite interest from others
when said person wears your shirt, will other people see it? will they ask themselves "where do I get a shirt like that for myself?" or even better "how do I sign up for this wonderful service advertised on this person's garment?!?"
1 is pretty clear-cut, I don't know anyone that doesn't like receiving gifts (unless as a child you received coal and therefore have bad associations with gifts -- I'm sorry for you). It's obvious that even in the population of our shared office, the hope of receiving a gift is shared throughout. Whenever the UPS guy walks down the stairs with a package, a bunch of heads pop up from behind 30" monitors hoping the delivery may be for them. A collective sigh occurs as the intended recipient walks over to get their package, and we all wait for our day...
2 is a little different, it requires predicting where in the hell the person who receives the shirt will actually wear it. In an ideal world we could send a t-shirt to someone along with a bunch of GPS coordinates -- "show up at 37.7842° N, 122.4016° W on 10/22, stand still for at least 20 minutes", unfortunately that's not how it works. In thinking about where people will actually be when they wear these shirts, Idan and I came up with the following thought, "the Startup T-Shirt Stereotype".
In our combined time around startups, we have both come across a lot of shirts(1), and Idan has had the pleasure of designing quite a few himself. During this time, some trends amongst the people that wear them started to stand out. Out of our quick chat one afternoon about t-shirts, we distilled the stereotype into the following situations,
What is it? You're at the bottom of the barrel, nothing left to wear, and you're forced to dig into the dresser equivalent of a junk-drawer. A graveyard of shirts, it's almost like having your own personal crunchbase in your dresser.
Who will see it? If we're lucky the cute girl/guy at the laundromat may look away from their magazine for just long enough to catch a glimpse in between wash loads, and maybe, just maybe, look it up on the iPhone we know they have with them.
What is it? Pretty cut and dry, it is what it is. Home at the end of the day and ready for sleep, so you reach into your pile of clothes not meant for going out in public and throw on a shirt emblazened with "Facebook".
Who will see it? This is a world of mystery, and really depends on what type of person you are. Do you spend your time on Craigslist casual encounters? Well, perhaps you can do us some good. In a steady relationship? We'll probably max out at 2 sets of eyes -- perhaps we should've sent you two shirts so you guys can match at night.
What is it? Free gym shirts 'till the end of time. This is probably the one I personally see around the most. The startup gym outfit, a company t-shirt paired with gym shorts and sneakers, it's about as common as yoga pants in the Marina(3).
Who will see it? It all depends on your schedule. If you're an off-schedule gym-goer who appreciates the quiet of an empty gym, it's unlikely many people will see this shirt, and you'll miss out on some opportunities. However, the upside possibility is the person shows up at the gym during prime hours, where you're guaranteed more eyes than any of the previous two combined.
I don't buy shirts
What is it? This person survives solely on the constant supply of startup t-shirts, with no plan to ever have to go shopping for a t-shirt given the unlimited supply. If only startups branded boxers & shorts this person would be set.
Who will see it? This is the crown jewel of all the stereotypes, the person you want to find. They'll proudly wear your shirt day in and day out regardless of setting. Interview? Sure, why the hell not. Fancy dinner? I'll wear my GrubWithUs shirt, that's food related.
So which t-shirt stereotype do you fall into? Maybe a new group altogether.
Follow the conversation here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6246216
And if you think there are any I missed, share them in the comments.
Interested in learning more about Braid Labs, and possibly getting a t-shirt?
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(1) I seriously have an entire dresser drawer dedicated to startup t-shirts, and it wasn't even planned that way, they just kind of took over -- I think they actually may be breeding, can't wait to see what kind of offspring they produce
(2) I give credit to @zainy and @coudron for introducing me to this word in the office -- this is my first use of it, I hope I did it right?
(3) The Marina is a San Francisco neighborhood where its locals are known for wearing yoga pants . . . (nearly) always