Product or Sales?

Kwindla Hultman Kramer
2 min readMar 31


Yesterday I talked about how Daily is a “hard tech” startup (to borrow a label from Root Ventures, one of our investors). A little bit more generally, I think that startups tend to start out as either product-oriented or sales-oriented. That initial perspective usually shapes the character of the startup for a long time.

One’s not better than the other, and there are lots of examples of both approaches leading to outsized success. I do think though, that you could argue a sales-oriented approach gives you more clearly defined levers to pull as you’re experimenting towards product market fit early on. Funnily enough, sales-oriented startups are often founded by engineers — by engineers who are second-time founders and have learned a lot of lessons about the importance of sales.

And founders with sales backgrounds often have a very strong product orientation early on because they know from experience what kind of product a sales team needs in order to capture market share.

I heard Paul Graham a long time ago say something like, “it’s easier to teach an engineer how to sell than to teach a business person how to engineer a product.”

I’m sure I’ve butchered the quote. I wouldn’t be surprised if I remember it a little bit incorrectly or out of context, and I’m not sure I agree with it exactly the way I’ve remembered it. But it did stick in my mind, because you can really see this in how Y Combinator works and what the YC partners emphasize during the program.

So in a kind of double-layered way, Y Combinator is an example of a startup with a sales-oriented original identity, even though it’s the engineer’s engineer’s home in Silicon Valley. I think one takeaway here is just that as you grow a startup, you can’t really separate building something good from being very good at selling that thing.

Today’s music is the title track from the 1965 Carmell Jones album “Jay Hawk Talk.” Jimmy Heath, Barry Harris, George Tucker, and Roger Humphries.



Kwindla Hultman Kramer (formerly Pluot), Oblong, Media Matters for America, AllAfrica -