Lost and Founder – Book Interview

Heidi Cohen Interviews Rand Fishkin

New book – Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World


Lost and FounderQ: What’s your best piece of advice for readers looking to improve their marketing?

A: Many folks are overwhelmed by the number of options available for marketing on the web. My advice is to choose channels and tactics at the intersection of three things:

  1. An area where you have personal passion and interest
  2. An area where you can provide unique value, different from what your competitors can/will do in that space
  3. An area where your customers are already engaging.

For example, if you love photos and visuals, but aren’t too keen on writing or on video, Instagram and Pinterest may be good matches (Twitter and Facebook’s visual side, too) so long as you also provide something unique for your audience with those visuals, and so long as your target audience interacts in these places with content like this.

Q: What was the inspiration for Lost and Founder?

A: I wanted to share the experiences (bad and good) I’ve had building a company so that, fingers crossed, others can learn from my mistakes.

Q: What is the key concept behind your book?

A: There’s no single “key concept,” which is unusual in business books, but intentional. I didn’t want another book that could be summarized in a short essay or conveyed in a quick talk — I wanted to share a collection of real experiences that could deliver value to entrepreneurs and early stage teams. If Lost and Founder has a theme, it’s this — Silicon Valley startup culture biases companies to do a lot of dumb things. This book can help you avoid them.

Q: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

A: My hope is that folks internalize the stories and lessons and can use them as they’re applicable in their own journeys. Hopefully, readers will also realize how much of the “common wisdom” about startups is just plain wrong and reconsider if they’re following those paths.

Q: How do you describe yourself professionally?

A: I’m a startup founder who’s spent his career trying to help people do better marketing.

Q: What are 1-3 books that inspired your work/career?


Good to Great by Jim Collins made me think hard about the aspects of building a company that correlate with successful outcomes

Powerful by Patty McCord has some awesome stories from Netflix’s early years that resonated with me

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely opened my eyes to the idea that while people aren’t logical, their lack of logic does follow patterns that can be recognized and optimized for

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome?

A: Depression was probably my biggest personal challenge. It hit when I was CEO and Moz had grown to ~$30mm in revenue and 150 employees. Not a great time to be hit by emotional anguish and made less functional, but with help and years of work, I managed to dig out of it.

Q: What’s something unusual or fun that most people don’t know about you?

A: I have an unusually terrible palate for wine (can barely tell red and white apart), and an unusually good palate for whisky (can often tell distilleries and years apart from one another in a blind tasting, even when they’re from the same region)

Q: Is there a piece of content, a social media campaign or a marketing campaign that you worked on that you’re particularly proud of?

A: I recently put together a presentation and blog post on demand creation that was very well-received.

Where to find Rand Fishkin

Thank you Rand.

Editor’s Note: Rand Fishkin created must-consume weekly content with his Whiteboard Friday videos. They include a concept defined on a whiteboard, a short video of Fishkin’s explanation and a text translation. (Note: It took over 6 months for this weekly content to gain traction.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
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