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Beyond Appearances: Making Data-Driven Decisions in Your Startup

  • 4 May

When we talk about vanity in the context of startups, we’re not referring to the overt or extravagant displays of self-indulgence often associated with the term. Instead, we’re delving into the subtler, more insidious side of vanity—the internal fear and pressure to maintain appearances. In a startup, this need to ‘keep up with the Jones’’ can lead to decisions that are more about image than impact, potentially jeopardizing the company’s financial health.

The Hidden Dangers of Keeping Up Appearances in Startups

Every decision can significantly impact the company’s future when in startup mode, succumbing to appearance-driven choices can be perilous. Such decisions often result in strained cash flow, minimal or even negative returns on investment, and in the worst cases, can bring a promising venture to an untimely end. Recognizing and countering this tendency is crucial for long-term success.

Understanding ROI in Uncharted Territories

For startups, particularly those offering novel services or products, calculating the return on investment (ROI) can be a complex endeavour. Without historical data, predicting outcomes feels akin to navigating without a compass. However, the solution often lies in borrowing data—examining similar models in your industry can provide valuable insights and benchmarks for your own decisions.

The Power of Networking and Data

Leveraging your network can be a game-changer, especially when your startup is charting a new course. Connecting with experienced individuals in your field can offer a treasure trove of insights and guidance. The REACH program, for instance, exemplifies how valuable networking can be, providing access to a community of seasoned professionals and alumni who can share their knowledge and experiences.

Internal Data as a Decision-Making Tool

Even without external benchmarks, your startup’s internal data can be a powerful asset. For instance, when considering the investment in a conference booth, the decision should hinge on the potential for meaningful interactions. By analysing past data—such as the number of effective conversations per sale—you can estimate the necessary engagement level at the conference to justify the expenditure.

Evaluating Expenditure Efficacy

Before committing to a significant expense, it’s essential to ask: Is this the best use of our resources? Will this investment yield the most relevant conversations or engagements compared to other options? This analytical approach can help silence the internal voice urging visibility for visibility’s sake, refocusing your strategy on actions that directly contribute to sales and growth.

Keeping Up Appearances Has Its Place

This doesn’t mean we should ignore appearances altogether – far from it. The key is to approach ‘keeping up appearances’ with ROI in mind. Ensure that meaningful interactions and conversations that lead to sales are the result of any effort to maintain appearances and that the ROI is worthwhile.


Distinguishing between ego-driven decisions and those driven by a desire for ROI is crucial. By prioritizing data-driven strategies and leveraging both internal and external insights, startups can navigate the challenging landscape more effectively, making decisions that are not only smart but sustainable, steering the venture toward long-term success.

About the Author

John Hellaby, CEO at Market Buy since August 2021, leads global expansion and digital strategy. As Chief Digital Strategist since June 2019, he designs and implements comprehensive digital strategies, ensuring seamless interactions across all stakeholders.

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