You might recall that we added the option to reimburse Expensify reports using Bitcoin. (It’s not widely used, but it’s no gimmick — Bitcoin is a great option for reimbursing international contractors without the expense or hassle of a wire transfer or PayPal.) Literally the next day, Bitcoin exploded in popularity. Whether or not those two events are related is unclear. But what is clear is that the timing made Expensify the mainstream media face of Bitcoin.
Since then, I’ve spoken on BSkyB, Bloomberg, CNBC, and Fox Business News — repeatedly, for several minutes at at time, usually arguing against someone else, but sometimes speaking solo. Ask anybody and they will tell you confidently that this sort of coverage is priceless stuff. Primetime coverage to a global, financial-savvy audience for a finance-related product? Any PR agency would tout this as the most tremendous success (and charge you a lot for the privilege).
But to my total surprise: it’s worthless.
Maybe “worthless” is an overstatement. I’m sure the brand recognition is worth something. And to be clear, the audience fit isn’t perfect. The segment is only tangentially about us. The audience is generally investors, and they don’t submit a lot of expense reports. So I’m sure if I just paid a PR agency the hundred thousand dollars it would have cost to get this, they would have no shortage of excuses to explain why this supposedly priceless coverage isn’t showing any apparent results.
But the reality is, when we go on TV, nobody notices. There are no tweets. Our website sees no new traffic. Customers don’t cite it as a reason they signed up. It’s like crickets chirping.
Anyway, luckily we were able to run this experiment for free. And don’t get me wrong: if you get the opportunity to speak on nationwide primetime TV for free, take it. It’s a super weird experience if nothing else. But if you’re a startup with a tight budget, don’t believe the hype.