Business strategy

Building authentic credibility: An ethical guide for startups

- September 8, 2023 3 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock
In the wake of Startup Daily’s recent Best in Tech Awards, where the likes of GO1 and Hysata clinched accolades, founders are pondering ways to build their own enterprise’s credibility.

Business history teems with examples of startups that soared to great heights, but it also offers numerous cautionary tales. One differentiating factor is legitimacy. For a startup, gaining credibility isn’t a mere vanity exercise; it’s a business imperative.

Why credibility is more than just a buzzword

For investors, customers, and potential partners, trust forms the foundation of any decision-making process.

A startup that lacks credibility will struggle to attract investment, secure partnerships, and even win over customers.

Legitimacy has the added advantage of reducing the cost of customer acquisition and facilitating easier access to credit and capital. In short, it functions as a catalyst that accelerates your path to market leadership.


Forge meaningful media partnerships

Engaging with the media can offer more than just a publicity boost. Well-regarded articles or feature pieces about your startup can serve as third-party validation. This, in turn, can affect your standing within the industry.

Although earned media — non-paid for editorial content — is the gold standard, strategically placed sponsored content that adds genuine value to readers can also be a viable approach. Whichever path you choose, avoid the pitfall of overstating your startup’s accomplishments or capabilities.

The media can be a double-edged sword; authenticity should be your guiding principle.


Leverage the power of customer testimonials

Real-world stories from actual customers can be a compelling form of social proof.

Publish these testimonials on your website, share them across social media platforms, or incorporate them into investor presentations.

However, integrity is key. Opt for testimonials that reflect a broad spectrum of customer experiences and avoid any that appear too curated or manipulated. Authentic testimonials not only validate your product or service but also build a reservoir of goodwill that can insulate your startup during challenging times.

Garner recognition through awards

There’s no denying the allure and utility of awards such as Startup Daily’s Best in Tech Awards.

aws and go1

John Kearney, Head of Startups AWS, ANZ, presents the Scaleup of The Year award to Go1’s Mark Dick. Image: Cec Busby.

Winning or even being shortlisted for such an award can significantly elevate your startup’s profile. T

his heightened visibility can attract potential investors, fuel customer interest, and act as a form of peer endorsement. The caveat is to focus on awards that have standing in your industry; obscure or ‘pay-to-win’ awards are easily seen through and may do more harm than good.

Secure intellectual property and certifications

Registering patents or acquiring certifications like ISO 9001 or ISO 27001 isn’t merely about legal protections, compliance or information security; it’s about signalling innovation, quality and data protection. For tech startups, intellectual property can be particularly impactful, offering a competitive edge while also attracting investor attention.

Certifications may require a commitment to quality control and process improvement, adding another layer of credibility that can be quite appealing to both B2B and B2C customers.

Assemble a formidable board of advisors

The expertise and reputation of a well-chosen advisory board can significantly bolster your startup’s credibility.

Look for industry veterans, respected academics, or thought leaders whose reputation can lend gravitas to your venture. Their willingness to associate their name with your startup can speak volumes, aiding in everything from investment rounds to partnership negotiations.

Embrace social responsibility

In today’s market, a company’s stance on social and environmental issues can heavily influence consumer behaviour.

Launching or partnering with eco-friendly initiatives or community service programmes can fortify your startup’s reputation as a socially responsible entity.

These actions can distinguish your brand in a crowded marketplace and resonate with a modern audience that values corporate responsibility.

Maintain transparency and honesty

Trust is built on transparency. Being open about your business operations, your financials, and even your setbacks establish a level of trust that can be extremely durable.

If mistakes are made, own up to them. Outline the steps you’re taking to rectify the situation. Businesses that maintain transparency often enjoy a longer leash from stakeholders when navigating rough seas.

Practice financial prudence

A healthy balance sheet and an effective business model can be viewed as markers of a serious, long-term player in the marketplace.

A robust financial model, transparent investor relations, and a clear path to profitability can all signal that your startup is a robust, well-managed entity, lessening the perceived risk and thereby elevating your credibility.


In summary, building legitimacy is a multidimensional endeavour. While there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy, a thoughtful combination of these tactics can go a long way.

The key takeaway is that credibility cannot be bought; it must be earned through consistent actions that validate your startup’s value proposition. And in today’s market, where scepticism is high and attention spans are short, credibility isn’t just a cornerstone of your business; it is your business.


  • Benjamin Chong is a partner at venture capital firm Right Click Capital, investors in bold and visionary tech founders.