Filtering by Category: Strategy
One of the biggest challenges so many young startups with global disruption ambitions face is an addiction to revenue.
In the early stages a startup’s life its job is to grow - fast - not to make revenue or profit. That’s why they raise enough capital to invest in growth for the first few years.
Undue focus on revenue forces decisions that can be massively distracting, undermine focus, create overstuffed products and stunt growth - ultimately killing the company.
Instead: Focus on what users need. Focus on doing just a few things well. Focus on product polish. Focus on repeatable, scalable workflows. Focus on removing pain and friction. Focus on building something that people love (the hardest thing in the world).
Defocusing revenue also allows you to consider disrupting rather than partnering with incumbents. It’s very easy to run to where the money and scale is. However often times a tech startup should be killing not helping some of the legacy players in an ecosystem. Or at the very least forcing them to play by new rules.
One of my colleagues on ‘execution’:
“People always hear that execution is everything in startups.
The problem is that they think “execution” is all about more action. But that’s like an amateur running onto a pro basketball court and running around throwing the ball in the air.
Execution is about getting the ball in the hoop and all of the skill, experience and muscle memory it takes to make that happen”.
As a young startup, the things you must avoid include...
Biting off more than you can chew
Protracted timelines/scope creep that can blow out
Over engineering your solution before you know what your users really need
Poor/miscommunication between stakeholders
Over promising and under delivering
This is why MVPs and strong cross functional process is essential.
Reminder: If your problem is getting from A to B then the MVP is a skateboard (then a bicycle, then a motorbike, then a little hatchback, then a sedan, then a Porsche), not 4 wheels.
“Given that we have limited resources, what would you say is more important, that it looks good or it's technically accurate?"
As the product manager, your job is ultimately to make it both. The trick is to break the problem down into discrete product "moves" such that each move is both beautiful and functional.
The process is not to figure out what resources you have and then work backwards to something you can ship. Your job is to figure out what you believe the user needs and figure out how to marshal your resources to get you there.
Usually, that requires you to create a shared purpose and mission for your team, a reasonable roadmap of discrete releases/moves and the discipline and focus to keep everyone's eye on the prize.
Show me the money!
Devs (especially top 50 apps from FB to Eventbrite) care about new users, re-engagement and money.
Unless your platform is solving fundamental technical challenge like SMS, Voice/Video etc (i.e. you're offering "nice to have" features) you need to demonstrate - in as concrete terms as possible - how you are going to drive new users, more sessions or more money for the developer.
My friend just asked me how Uber scaled so fast. My off-the-cuff answer:
Huge ambition/vision/appetite - this animates and motivates everyone and everything
First principles thinking - this leads to ignoring legacy constraints and encourages new innovative thinking/solutions
Fearless execution with ownership/accountability at the edge - which allows everyone to move fast without waiting for permission
I’d also add...
Bias towards action - move fast. Have the meeting this week, not next week
Hire strong operators that, in-turn, hire strong operators.
Of course, these are some of the same things that got it in trouble too.
Investors have limited bandwidth and a chunk of capital they need to put to work.
Don’t try to minimize your funding ask thinking it will be easier to get a “Yes”. You need to be asking for the right amount of money to put you on a trajectory to win your category and get a 100x return on their bet.
Anything less than that is uninteresting and comes across as naive.
You must choose a minimum viable customer and build a killer, habit forming product for them. Then, and only then, can you incrementally expand to other use-cases and market segments.