Over the past week I've had two meetings with founders where I gave the same advice...
You need to identify and pin point the one magical thing that your startup will do for consumers.
This is common advice given to founders, but why?
A few thoughts...
1) Doing one thing great is better than doing a dozen things good. One of the founders I gave this advice to had a startup where she was doing about five things for her customers, but four of them were off-the-shelf (API) affiliate relationships that she was hoping to use to drive revenue. In any instance like this, the founder is usually watering down her main thing by doing all this other stuff.
How much less would Airbnb have grown if they had buried their one magic thing (letting you stay in homes) with a bunch of Expedia and Hotel.com affiliate links?
Would people have even used Airbnb if that was the case?
2) What "5 words" will your customers tell their friends? This may be in the top three of general advice that I give to founders. It's super important that consumer startups have a high level of free growth (various forms are here). In the very beginning this (free) growth is a proxy for how much people love your product...people tell others about great things.
The second founder that I spoke with has an app that does a few different things in one specific area. He didn't want to make any difficult choices to eliminate parts of his product so that every consumer segment would have a way to use it. What he's underestimating is that watering down his message - in order to appeal to a seemingly larger group - is hurting his growth because his fans don't know the five words to use when they tell their friends. By doing multiple things there aren't five (good) words that his fans can say to their friends.
To help clarify what five words that your customers will tell their friends, you have to make product and messaging decisions that encourage this behavior. Examples used in this podcast...
"Uber gets you a cab"
"Google lets you find information"
"Twitter lets you share your status"
At the very early stage I'm sure that the founders of Uber, Google & Twitter were aware that their products did dozens of things and will do hundreds more great things as they get bigger, but their product and messaging were incredibly disciplined and specific.
Think about Uber optimizing for the map view where you could see cars coming. Or Google making the entire screen just a search box. And there's probably no better example of product discipline than Twitter. Their 140 character restraint defined their product.
All of these decisions culminated in a few simple words that friends said to you the first time that you heard about Uber, Google & Twitter.
3) Easier team decision making. One of the main advantages startups have over larger organizations is speed. Speed is even more important if you believe that your startup is a pivot or two away from hitting upon something that's really working.
Regardless of the reason, startups need to get things done at a rapid pace. This is much easier if the entire team is 100% clear on what they believe is the magical element of the product for consumers.
In this podcast a serial founder/investor discusses his thoughts on this topic. As he says, "whenever you put an 'and' and an 'and' and a 'but' into the mission statement of a startup, the harder it is to succeed."
Can you say in five words what problem your startup/product is solving?
Sidenote: If you enjoyed this post, you might like this one as well.
Get Right to the Lesson
I’d recommend listening to the entire thing, but to get right to the point go to minute 22:51 of this podcast/video.
Thanks to these folks for helping us all learn faster
This Week In Startups (@TWistartups )
Jason Calacanis (@jason)
Jacqui Deegan (@jacqKD)
Jacob Beemer (@jacobbeemer)
Please let me and others know what you think about this topic
Email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org or let's discuss publicly at @davempayne.