The Power and Perils of Hype in Consumer Startups


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 11, 2023

3 min read


The Power and Perils of Hype in Consumer Startups


In the world of consumer startups, hype is a double-edged sword. While it can propel a startup to great heights, it can also lead to its downfall if not managed properly. This article explores the concept of hype in consumer social networks and how it can impact the success or failure of a startup. We will delve into the similarities between hype and economic subsidies, the dangers of early hype, and the importance of timing in leveraging hype.

The Role of Hype as an Economic Subsidy:

In the early stages of a consumer startup, founders often use subsidies to kickstart transactions and attract a larger user base. This higher average value per transaction appeals to a wider audience, creating a sense of momentum and growth. However, the risk lies in becoming reliant on these subsidies, as removing them later may prove detrimental. Hype functions similarly to an economic subsidy, creating the illusion of a bigger and more significant platform than it actually is. Users invest their time and engagement based on the anticipation of future rewards, leading to a distortion field of hype.

The Danger of Early Hype:

While hype can generate initial interest and engagement, it can also create unrealistic expectations. When a flood of new users sign up for a product, its flaws and weaknesses become apparent. The average user experience may not be able to catch up with the hype, causing a decline in engagement once the hype subsidy diminishes. This phenomenon, known as hitting the hype air pocket, can lead to a significant setback for the startup. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid hype until the product and its flywheel are truly working.

Catalyzing Competition:

Another risk associated with early hype is the reaction it elicits from incumbents in the market. When a startup gains significant attention and appears to be a threat, existing players may feel compelled to react and develop their own competing products or features. This can impede the startup's growth and disrupt its momentum. Being underestimated in the early days allows startups to fly under the radar and innovate without arousing the attention of incumbents. By the time competitors realize the startup's potential, it may be too late for them to catch up.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Focus on Product-Market Fit: Before embracing hype, ensure that your product has achieved a strong product-market fit. Develop a reliable flywheel that can sustain growth even without the hype subsidy.
  • 2. Timing is Key: Avoid premature hype by waiting until your product and its user experience are well-established. This will prevent users from hitting the hype air pocket and losing interest once the hype subsides.
  • 3. Embrace Underestimation: Use the advantage of being underestimated in the early days to innovate and refine your product. This allows you to build a solid foundation before incumbents can react or perceive you as a threat.


Hype can be a powerful tool for consumer startups, but it must be wielded with caution. Understanding the similarities between hype and economic subsidies, recognizing the dangers of early hype, and strategically timing its implementation are crucial for long-term success. By focusing on product-market fit, appropriate timing, and embracing underestimation, startups can navigate the hype landscape more effectively and build sustainable growth. Remember, hype should be the result of success, not a catalyst for it.

Hatch New Ideas with Glasp AI 🐣

Glasp AI allows you to hatch new ideas based on your curated content. Let's curate and create with Glasp AI :)