By definition, all startups are scrappy. The good ones are scrappy and clever. The great ones are scrappy, clever and successful.

Take Airbnb, the short-term peer-to-peer lodging site, for example.

Many people today see Airbnb as somewhat of an overnight success. However, the lesser known reality is that, after a year of slogging away and accumulating roughly $40k in credit card debt, the founders devised a unconventional way to gain exposure at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver--selling cereal.

With over 80,000 attendees and a massive shortage of rooms available for the convention, the startup found it to be the perfect opportunity to showcase their solution. In order to get the attention they needed, they designed and hand-assembled 500 boxes of "Obama O's" and "Cap'n McCain's" cereal to send to high profile bloggers in hope of coverage.

Not only did they get the exposure that they needed, but the cereal itself became so popular that they started to sell them for $40 each.

In the end, Airbnb sold $30,000 in cereal which helped to pay down a majority of their debt. More importantly, this became the turning point in their business which ultimately led them to raising $2.3 billion.

While you don't encounter rags-to-riches stories like that all too often, startups throughout the world are constantly coming up with clever ways to make their mark.

And, Startup Drugz is one of them.

Counter to what the name may suggest, Startup Drugz is an apparel company. More specifically, it's a t-shirt apparel company that caters to startups and those that love them.
Their clothing is a mixture of 1/3 motivation and 2/3 tongue-in-cheek. Their sayings range from 'Allergic to Failure' to 'My VC Paid for this Shirt'.

Clever, right?

Well, their cleverness doesn't end with just their products, they've also done a few unconventional things to show their customers just who they are, and what they stand for.

One of those things is how they've chosen to deal with trolls. (For the uninitiated, a 'troll' is someone who has nothing nice to say, but says it anyway, usually under the guise of anonymity.)

Rather than ignore the trolls, Startup Drugz decided to enlisted the help of their fans to engage with them. Even better, they made it into a competition, rewarding the most creative 'troll responder' each month with a free mug and a $50 donation in their name to the Megan Meier Foundation, which is an organization that tackles the issues surrounding cyberbullying and suicide.

Another example of their creativity is their twist on social good. Rather than donating a portion of their profits to charity, they set aside 5% of profits to be reinvested back into the startup community by way of angel investing in startups. Very meta and clever.

That's why I wasn't the least bit surprised to get an email this afternoon regarding their latest (and possibly most clever) marketing hack to date.

The subject line read: Winning the Powerball As a Startup Fundraising Strategy

In what seems to be a play on the "share this post and good things will come", Startup Drugz has tapped into the power of social and everyone's dream of winning the Powerball to give us a lesson in social marketing 101.

Once again, they've brilliantly tied fundraising, a hot topic in the world of startups (aka their customers), into marketing. This time however, it's attached to the hopes and dreams of everyone in the US hoping to hear their numbers being called on during the Powerball drawing.

Startup Drugz has purchased a $20 ticket, drafted and signed an legally binding agreement and is offering to split their winning with anyone that likes, shares and/or comments on their post. The more shares, the more you could get.

And, of course, they brilliantly tied that into an aptly designed shirt featuring a Powerball ticket with the tagline, My Startup's Fundraising Strategy.

While, as of this writing, the post hasn't gone viral, it has certainly mustered up enough attention to warrant the $20 they spent on the promotion. And, if they just so happen to get lucky, well ... they may just buy Airbnb.

Published on: Jan 12, 2016