To continue our analysis of startups, we decided to look within, considering lotus823 is a startup itself. We share the same trials, free spirit, and passion as the startups we work with and write about. We sat down with lotus823’s managing partners, David and Allison Hernandez, and conducted a three-part interview to talk about what being a startup means. In the process, we uncovered the core of startup culture – personality. Ours is a human company. It’s built on feelings. It grows organically. It changes. Today, the best strategy is openness to new ones.
In Part One, we talked with David about the beginnings of lotus823. The vision has evolved, but it retains the same excitement and risk that brought the company into existence.
Beyond the standard definition, could you tell us what a startup means to you?
DH: It starts with passion. Before you even consider a startup, you must have outrageous passion. You also need an unwavering faith that what you’re doing is going to yield results. If you don’t believe that, there’s no reason to get involved. You’re going to make mistakes and there are going to be pitfalls, but it’s important that you can understand the issues with an objective mind, adjust your strategy, and continue moving forward.
What prompted your decision to start this company?
DH: We analyzed the PR landscape based on previous experience, and we saw a shift on the horizon. We knew that while an ink house or traditional agency still had merit, things were changing. Turnover was going up and the value it was generating was on the decline. This wasn’t a reflection of an agency’s work, but indicative of where the consumer was moving. It’s a world where people live on two or three different screens now. So, we started with 3M paper on the wall, drawing diagrams, and that was the genesis of lotus823.
How did you know you were ready to do that, though? I’d be terrified.
DH: You just do it. It’s a leap of faith, with some measuring. We did research and looked at SEO and the shifting sands of social. If you go back just four years ago, it was a completely different world.
May as well be 4,000 years.
DH: Right! But you jump, and you just believe there’s a floor.
How long were you thinking startup before you took action?
DH: A few years. Any burst of creation comes from friction, and I was experiencing an internal friction between the work I was doing and the client turnover. At first it was just unconscious. Then, about six months out, it became more conscious. Like, we have to do this.
Kind of like move or be left behind?
DH: Yes, exactly.
What did your vision look like at the beginning when you were drawing on those 3M pages? Is that different than what we are today?
DH: Very different. At first, you’re in survival mode. There’s so much that you can’t plan for. There are internal pitfalls you never see coming and external forces that move in ways you will never control. What we started doing with SEO, PR, and social has evolved. In the beginning, we were big on ideas, but we lost track of developing a strategy. Ideas and philosophies are great, but you have to do something. The strategy came over time.
Why is the startup model so popular?
DH: Tech has leveled the playing field. Now, anyone can explore and deliver on dreams if they really want to. The digital space has allowed talent to come together more quickly than ever. Look at smartphones – Apple and Samsung are eating up 60% of the market right now. That sprouted an entire ecosystem of avenues, apps, peripherals, and accessories, and that’s not going to end.
Entrepreneurs like David and Allison will bring ideas into existence with startups like lotus823. Before the tech takeover, a lot less was possible. Now, it’s hard to find something that’s impossible. As for us, we’ll keep moving forward, trying to stretch the limits of content marketing into exciting new regions. Then, we’ll plant a flag and move into the next unknown. In our next interview, we’ll discuss how you find the right people for a startup. Stay tuned!