Eric Ries uses the phrase “vanity metrics” to refer to metrics that founders cite to demonstrate progress but that are actually false signals. A related concept is “vanity milestones”: achievements that are more about making you feel good than helping your company. Vanity milestones include:
- Raising money from famous people/firms who aren’t really going to help your company (e.g. Hollywood celebrities).
- Partnerships with brand name organizations that aren’t really going to help your company.
- Getting press (e.g top lists) that focuses on founders and not your company.
- Almost all tech press (unless your product targets developers or tech companies).
This doesn’t mean it’s bad to hit vanity milestones. Good companies hit lots of vanity milestones along the way, and sometimes they can be a morale boost for employees. What is worrisome is when founders equate vanity milestones with success. The attention will go away very quickly if your company fails.