Startups: Be Awesome At Something

Quick post to get back in the swing of things after a much needed vacation.

When I talk to startup product development teams, I listen carefully for people saying things like:

  • We’re real __________________ nerds
  • We are experts at __________________
  • We live and breath __________________
  • Our team’s secret weapon is __________________
  • We consistently find a way to __________________
  • At the core, we’re here today because __________________

If I hear people provide specific, non-plastic responses, my ears perk up.

Luck, first-mover advantage, funding, and connections can get you pretty far. But to win (and continue winning) you need to be awesome at something. That something can be a variety of things—networking, raising money, technical/ux/product chops, knowledge of a certain buyer pain, marketing creativity, etc. — but it needs to be repeatable and intentional.

Startups often fall into these traps:

  • They’re scattered: they want to be awesome at everything
  • They’re conflicted: they try to be awesome at things which are in direct opposition
  • They’re delusional: they make bold, aspirational claims about things that they aren’t, frankly, awesome at
  • They’re myopic: they make big bets on being awesome at things that don’t really matter, and don’t give them an edge
  • They’re self-conscious: they don’t want to admit what they’re actually good at because it isn’t sexy, “cutting edge”, etc.

These traps lead you down a slippery slope: ignoring and failing to double down on what you’re actually good at and failing to become awesome at what you need to be awesome at.

So, take a moment to answer:

What must we be awesome at?

What are we awesome at?

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.