Hacker Career Advice

What I Learned From Fyre Festival

If you haven’t watched the Netflix or Hulu documentaries about the Fyre Festival yet, you’re missing out on the craziest startup drama of all time.

The original concept for Fyre was a marketplace for booking talent, like celebrities & musicians. The origin story? Founder Billy McFarland tries to book Ja Rule for a party, realizes the booking industry is broken, and resolves to change it.

It’s not a bad idea either. Certainly no worse than an app for hailing taxis, because “finding a cab in San Francisco is broken.”

So, Billy parlays his good idea into a startup, raises funds, hires a team of devs to turn it into a working product, and seeks out creative ways to market and launch it, including the ill-fated music festival.

Obviously, things went from interesting marketing stunt to full-blown dumpster fyre pretty quickly. But if you look beyond the scam, Billy’s real failure—in my opinion—is that he never validated Fyre’s product/market fit.

Until you know that your customers, and not just investors, want & value your product, you don’t need to spend heavily in marketing or PR.

Bottom line: Don’t be like Billy. Focus on finding your product/market fit first and then look for innovative ways to reach customers.

Also, and I hope this isn’t news to you: don’t lie, scam, or abuse people’s trust.