Focus. Focus. Focus.
This is one of the most common pieces of advice given to startup founders. As with most advice, it’s much easier to say that do…especially when it’s you in the situation and are faced with dozens of bright & shiny opportunities and death-defying uncertainties every day as a startup founder.
This particular podcast caught my attention because it’s one of the best examples that I’ve ever heard of how product focus enabled a worse product to win because it nailed what mattered most.
The product example used here is how Google docs successfully competed with Microsoft Office. Google docs bet that "free plus sharing" was way more valuable than all the rich features of Microsoft Excel & Word.
They were right.
So why does this happen? A few thoughts...
Startups launch with a clear value proposition to their customers. This passion and focus is the foundation of the business and felt deeply by your initial customers. This is a very powerful foundation that creates a moat for other competitors, but has its downsides. You don’t need to look any further than the app Foursquare for an example of a startup that was build on one powerful thing (check-ins) and then rode it all the way up and down.
Big organizations optimize to (a) protect large revenue lines and (b) serve shareholders. Plus they tend to be set in their ways when it comes to organization, habits & market assumptions. This allows scrappy startups - with acute focus - to get some scale and potentially become a threat before the larger company takes much action.
Do you get your craft beer from Walmart? Customers don’t want one company doing everything for them. This is one of the main reasons why there’s often an opportunity for startups in established industries
In this podcast/video, one of the best product people that I know describes how he thinks about product focus and why it’s critical.
If you are particularly interested in product, here are all my blog posts tagged "product." Enjoy!
Update: This article was used for my monthly Hypepotamus column (that includes some addition content from Nick Miller, the co-founder & CEO of Gather Technologies). All of my Hypepotamus articles are here and here.
Get Right to the Lesson
I’d recommend listening to the entire thing, but to get right to the point go to minute 26:44 of this podcast/video.
Thanks to these folks for helping us all learn faster
Des Traynor (@destraynor), co-founder of Intercom (@intercom)
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.
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