It’s Not So Complicated: How to Grow Traction Without Access to Capital with James Hamlin

Posted on 03 Feb 2023
Go To Market Strategy

Listen on:

Growing your business doesn't have to be complicated. Seriously, it's easier than ever to use free channels like social media and content creation to build your audience and gain traction. 

And don't forget about your personal network—it plays a crucial role in your early growth by providing recommendations, endorsements, and partnership opportunities. 

In this episode of the Growth Mentor Podcast, we sit down with James Hamlin, a fractional CMO and startup advisor, to discuss "How to Grow Traction Without Access to Capital." 

You’ll hear about:

  • The importance of identifying your goals and target audience
  • The significance of capital and connections in the startup ecosystem
  • Strategies to gain early traction without access to capital
  • Examples of free channels to invest in during the early stages
  • Recommended tools for networking and content creation

Tools mentioned:

  • WhatsApp: Messaging app for networking
  • Discord: Communication platform for chat servers and communities.
  • Beehive: Platform for creating and managing newsletters.

And all these in just 10 minutes.


Spyros Tsoukalas: Everyone, welcome to another episode from the Growth Mentor Podcast. I’m excited to have James Hamlin with us who has more than 20 years of experience in building scaling and managing global marketplaces and community businesses. James, welcome to the Growth Mentor Podcast.

James Hamlin: Thanks so much for having me, Spyros, really nice to speak to you this morning. And hi to everyone listening.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Excited to talk with you about, How to grow traction without access to capital. I’m a big fan of startups. I am a startup or myself. So let’s hit it. Could you tell us something we don’t know about early-stage startups and their early traction?

James Hamlin: It’s a good question for the Growth Mentor community because I speak to a lot of mentors on here that don’t have access to that capital and ultimately are doing incredibly well without that. I think what we see in the current market, which is so encouraging is the access to so many tools that can get you started really quickly. Right, I’m now talking to more and more businesses that are looking for that I guess to kind of scale up traction, right starting to invest in paid media and things of that regard. But like building websites, and getting your own followers on social media, it’s never been simpler, right? So to get from nothing to something is incredibly encouraging. And we saw a lot of that during a lockdown as well, right? Businesses are just being built in bedrooms, basic getting some traction and finding an audience. But ultimately, like the same, the normal things still apply is connects a product that an audience is looking for. And they really, really clear and simple messaging and be able to get that product in front of those particular people and lots of lots of tools out there in the market in order to make that very doable. So incredibly encouraging.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Well, what do you see going wrong with startups at early stages? Like, what mistakes are they doing?

James Hamlin: So like, you’ve always got to identify your goals and your target audience first, right? And I’m actually seeing less of this. But I think like, as years went by, I would see lots of startups, a lot of them extremely well funded, certainly in the marketplace space, that would be the very thin end of the wedge, who wouldn’t necessarily understand who their market and target audience was. And you’d look at it. And you’d kind of think, are there enough people that actually exist out there in order to warrant rounds of funding hundreds of employees? And I’m not sure that was really the case. So like, marketing and growth is a very simple thing at its core. So identify your goals and target audience and what you actually want to achieve. Is there enough volume in the market right now or can you know, create that volume in the market is really, really important?

Spyros Tsoukalas: Having been through a few incubators, myself, and having been part of a few startup ecosystems, I observed that there’s too much emphasis on fundraising and pitching at very early stages. So newcomers in the field in the startup space, join an incubator, and what they learned that they should be doing afterward, in a way is pitching and fundraising. Like why is there too much emphasis on that?

James Hamlin: Capital makes the world go round, right? And look, lots of people simply aren’t in a position that they can launch this business without that capital. Right. But also, let’s not forget, it’s not also the capital, but it’s also the connections and the directions and the advisory positions as well, that are incredibly important. I think one of the things that I’ve seen, which is, which is really positive progression, is the advent of the side hustle, and the ability to be very open about that. So if you think about it, traditionally, you would quit your job, right? Maybe it’s a high-paid one. So you need. So you need that investment to basically subsidize your lifestyle or to build your product, mostly seeing and certainly speaking to more and more founders does still have a day job and are very open about the projects that are launching last, they’re still doing that day job. And that’s a really interesting development because certainly, I’ve come from environments where in the past, that wouldn’t have really been encouraged, right, the commitment would be questioned and things of that particular nature, right, it wouldn’t necessarily be as encouraged. But I think the lockdown years kind of took us to that position because ultimately people had a lot more free time. So an interesting development in that realm I was.

Spyros Tsoukalas: So going back to our main theme, like how to gain early traction without access to capital, how, what’s your approach? What did startups do?

James Hamlin: Yeah, so look, it’s never been simpler to leverage free channels, right? Low cost, build up in building up your own audience, as has never been simpler, right? And to go out and get those 50 to 101st customers, is something that you should be able to do, right, whether it’s friends, whether it’s family, whether it’s networking, whatever it may be, that’s always the best place to start. And in a sense, the best way to kind of be a test what you’re doing, right? Can you leverage the free channels that exist? Yes, content creation takes time. And it isn’t simple. Bots, you can already leverage those audiences. I think your personal network is going to be absolutely vital to the right recommendations, the ability to get in front of the right type of people endorsements, and also people to kind of test your product, right? It’s like different people in different scenarios that can kind of test and hypothesize. So it’s what you’re doing, which could then lead you to kind of opportunities, partnerships, and things of that particular nature, I think, look, when you’re trying to get that scale, you are gonna need to invest in paid media, right? There are very few platforms and businesses that can get away from that. But ultimately, you have the ability to really get to that point, we have a product that people like, and people can use. And ultimately, it’s starting to get some traction before you start to invest in paid channels.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Would you like to elaborate on some examples of free channels or channels that are easy for startups to invest in in their early stages?

James Hamlin: Yeah, I would never class anything is easy. Because I think everyone’s number one resource that they have is their own time. Right. And whether they have a family where they have commitments, whatever they do, their own time is the most precious thing that they have. But that said, your own personal network, whether it be through LinkedIn, or whether it be through Tik Tok, or whether it be through whatever platform is coming through next, you have the ability to generate an audience and you do get out what you put in. Right, I think one of the real developments I see as well as lots of closed wall communities are very influential people in your particular field, you can be part of and contribute to them as well. So you can kind of reach those particular people. So it’s your own network. It’s your own name, it’s your own brand, but also just, you know, be very, very competent of like, I also see people that spend a hell of a lot of time on there’s probably too much time without necessarily the traction. But again, if you’ve got something that’s of the right quality and can focus on the right audience, then I think you’ve got the ability to get some traction in those particular regards. But again, like LinkedIn, following social following, you know, newsletter following all contribute massively because you know, people will subscribe and they will come to you, you know, you don’t have to come to them.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Perfect. Thanks for analyzing your thoughts. Are there any tools that you recommend? What are your favorite ones around this topic?

James Hamlin: So the tool that is to be used more than there’s two for networking. And on the business side, number one is WhatsApp. And number two is Discord. Sync and again, they’re free and available to basically anybody. If you’re interested in building up your own thoughts around a newsletter, I think one of the most exciting platforms I’ve seen for that so far is Beehive. If you’re looking to build up a newsletter, one platform I would recommend is Beehive. I’m seeing more and more newsletters come into my inbox that are powered by Beehive, and hearing some really interesting things on the content creation side of things. So we’d massively recommend that as a platform. And ultimately, if you’ve got some great thoughts, find an audience and share them in a newsletter.

Spyros Tsoukalas: James, thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights about early-stage startups and their traction of access to capital. Thank you so much for being here with us. And I hope that listeners will enjoy the episode as much as I did.

James Hamlin: Appreciate you having me thanks so much.

In this episode

Spyros Tsoukalas Head of Business Development @ GrowthMentor 💜 | Passionate No-Coder ⚙️

I’m a computer engineer transformed into a ⚙️ passionate No Coder ⚙️. Reach out if you want to get introduced or learn more about the No Code world!

James Hamlin
James Hamlin Fractional CMO : Consultant & Advisor to Start ups & Scale Ups

Fractional CMO with over 20 years of experience in building, scaling, and managing Global Marketplace & Community businesses.

James Hamlin
A talk by James Hamlin
Fractional CMO : Consultant & Advisor to Start ups & Scale Ups
Hosted by
Spyros Tsoukalas Head of Business Development @ GrowthMentor 💜 | Passionate No-Coder ⚙️

Join the community

Enjoy the peace of mind that advice is always only one Zoom call away.