Don’t Make Tuna Fish

The worst advice often given to entrepreneurs

Adam Pittenger
Sep 26, 2013 · 2 min read

We've all heard it many times.

Someone is discussing a startup success story or simply giving entrepreneurial advice, and they say…

“It’s all about the execution.”


Don’t get me wrong — execution matters. A lot. But when others proclaim it to be the sole criteria for success (or lack thereof), I cringe.

The idea is what matters. The execution of that idea is what will differentiate you in the market. And while that’s a significant factor in determining a product’s success, a pretty user interface means nothing if there are no users.

It’s the equivalent of having a world-class chef make me a plate of tuna fish. They could prepare it to perfection, lay it out beautifully on a dish, and serve it to me at just the right temperature. The execution is there. But at the end of the day, I still don’t like tuna fish.

The same goes for building products.

In my last post I focused on the “Just Start” concept. But that doesn't mean you should blindly pursue any idea that pops into your head. It means, do your homework. When there’s an idea you’re passionate about, that you feel is worth pursuing — then, just start and see where it takes you.

Do tons of customer discovery. Lay out your riskiest assumptions. Test your hypotheses. Validate them. Or, maybe come to find that they’re totally unfounded and you need to move in a new direction.

That is what The Lean Startup is based on (read it, if you haven’t). Don’t spend massive amounts of time and effort building something because someone told you, “it’s all about the execution.”

Ideas matter. Plain and simple. While there can and will be new ideas, more often than not, you’re going to build upon some form of existing demand. Something already in the market tells you 1) “people would want this other thing”, 2) “there’s an opportunity they’re missing here”, or 3) “we can do that in a much better way”.

All the execution in the world won’t help you if nobody wants the end result.

Test your idea. Confirm that it provides value people are seeking. Then, and only then, is it about the execution.

That’s the time to focus intensely on building a product and an experience that delivers said value in a compelling way. Once you’re building something people actually want. Or more simply put…

Don’t make tuna fish.

    Adam Pittenger

    Written by

    Founder and CEO,