personal branding

Givers, takers, and the secret to growing your own brand as a startup founder

Want to know what separates successful startup founders from ones that burn out? We spoke to Adam Grant, NYT best-selling author of Give & Take on the power of personal branding.

When it comes to startup founders, the world is full of 3 types of people - givers, matchers and takers.

Only one of them achieve the most success (and ease) at influencing those around them and scaling their impact. Which one?

The concept was first popularized by Adam Grant, three-time New York Times bestselling author and Wharton professor giant, in his book Give & Take

We spoke to Adam to get his thoughts on what it takes to build personal brand and influence., so stay tuned for his response below.

In his book Give & Take (which I totally recommend for startups), he discusses there are 3 types of people as far as personal brands go [paraphrased slightly]:



Those are the people we all tend to love, who are generous with their time, effort, and overall willingness to help and add value to others. They do so for the sake of it, and are intrinsically motivated to see the betterment of others.



Most of us tend to be here, according to Grant. These people are happy to help, as long as the other person has helped them before or is planning to help them in the future. They believe in justice and equality of transaction — and reward (or punish) people based on the reciprocation they receive.



These people are just as nice as Matchers and Givers, but they primarily seek to gain value themselves. They do so politely, but are ultimately interested in how much value they can extract for themselves.


For the sake of simplicity, I’ll forgo matchers and focus this article on the 2 “extremes” — givers and takers. 

What is interesting, Grant notes, is that people can be different types depending on who they’re with.

For example, a person could be a Taker in the workplace, but a Giver when he’s back home with his family, and a Matcher with his extended relatives, and so on.

Before you declare yourself to become a giver, know that on the scale of success — takers ranked pretty high.

Does that surprise you?

But you know, what’s even crazier is that givers both ranked the lowest and the highest (higher than takers).

The 2 types of givers, and the one that sinks right to the bottom.

There are 2 types of givers, one gets taken advantage of, and the other thrives and scales their influence. It is important to know the difference between the two.

Selfless Givers — Those people will stop at nothing to serve others and ensure their well-being, often to their own detriment. Unfortunately, many of those people get taken advantage of, causing what Grant coins the doormat effect. 


Otherish Givers — Those people generously look out for the interests of others, as well as their own interests. This way, they get good at building fruitful relationships while protecting themselves from being used.

What’s the difference between otherish givers and matchers then?

A huge one. Otherish givers are long-term oriented and are not as transactional about helping others as matchers tend to naturally default to. 

Givers don’t seek a return on their investment, and believe that’s the wrong question to ask. 

They believe in changing the culture.

They first-handedly build a culture resemblant of an abundance circle, where everyone helps who they can, with no monitor of “credit remaining”, and can expect to be helped as well. 

One of the key success factors of the otherish giver’s strategy is that they are selfless with their giving, and empower others in their network to do the same thing. 

We spoke to Grant to get his views on the relation between otherish givers and building personal brand, he said:


"Help others, but don't sacrifice yourself. When you give in ways that energize you rather than exhaust you, you end up with higher motivation, stronger and deeper connections, and unexpected learning opportunities."


Influence on top of influence.

This pleasantly tribal or generational element, where the 2nd degree also decides to pass this good wish on to those they’ve helped, essentially stacks up your influence as the original person who put this in motion. 

Another clever application of this that you may recognize, is when you approach a giver for help, and they help you by nominating and connecting you to someone in their network who can rise to the ask at hand. 

This makes the person who asked feel gracious, and the person that you connected them to feel like a subject expert — 2 birds with one stone (or coco pop).

Strategic giving?

Givers, matchers, and takers exist in every circle, industry, and tribe — no matter how big or small. Having said that, not too many people think about it consciously, and this becomes your competitive edge.

With the knowledge you have now, you can take a strategic decision today to consciously become a giver. The faster you help people in your circle, the less guilty you feel if you ever need someone’s help in the future.

Every time you are in a social interaction, stop, and think of how you can add as much value as possible to the other person. Surprise them even, if you can.

Not to mention, the more opportunities you will create for yourself.

Statistically, as most people are matchers, they will make it their life’s mission to connect you with value — and they will think of ways that didn’t even occur to you.

The thought alone is exciting, so I urge you to start today building your influence and adding value by helping others. 

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