Founder Jeff Tang had just wrapped up a $1.9 million seed-stage round to help him achieve his vision of building a "second brain" using knowledge graphs and bidirectional links.
Everything was smooth-sailing at Athens Research, a Y Combinator-backed tech startup. Their open-source community was growing rapidly, and they'd hired all the engineering prowess they'd need to build a proper v1.0 of Athens.
But as they inched closer to an official launch of new marketing assets, Jeff and the team realized they hadn't even identified an ideal customer. What kind of businesses should they target for a paid version of the product? Should they try to grow organically through the community, or should they go straight into a per-seat sales motion?
I had the privilege of joining the Athens Research team just after the seed round closed. Our challenge? To launch a tech brand that richly speaks to a highly sophisticated audience: The world's brightest researchers.
I sat in on several brand-level vision sessions, where the team identified what they believed to be the initial go-to-market strategy based on the value of the product they were building.
Using this "database" of knowledge from the team, I dove into brand strategy and building the company's vision.
I quickly realized a different goal for the company. They didn't just want to build an interesting product, reach a series A, or have a successful exit. They wanted to be the primary research and knowledge tool used to create breakthrough technologies, like new vaccines, self-driving cars, and Web 3.0. They wanted to be a partner to next-level researchers.
They needed a brand to complete that bigger vision.
Fortunately, the product spoke for itself. Once researchers learned how to get benefit from its key features, they unilaterally loved it. Instead, our challenge was giving them confidence that Athens Research was ready and willing to implement ambitious features to boost their productivity.
I presented an unexpectedly bold vision: Athens Research is a research hub built specifically for technology pioneers seeking moonshot-level advancements.
The team was all-in. As they developed new features, I designed and deployed a Webflow site that established the brand, clearly identified the pricing structure, and implemented the first lead capture efforts.