Play Bigger — A Must-Read for Startup Founders

Play Bigger is a must-read new book for founders. I believe that its ideas and frameworks will be relevant to the next ten years in the same way that the ideas of lean startups and customer development were to the last ten.

Why do I think this? First some context:

The Lean Startup Revolution

About ten years ago, savvy entrepreneurs began to discover that the costs of starting a company were collapsing. Open source software, pay-as-you-go web services, the cloud, offshore labor, ubiquitous broadband penetration, and online/social platforms for sales and marketing made it so that “$500,000 was the new $5 Million.” The two books that captured the zeitgeist of this were intimately related. The first was The Four Steps to the Epiphany, by Steve Blank. One of his proteges, Eric Ries, built on his foundation with TheLean Startup. We were lucky enough to have a front-row seat at the birth of these ideas. Ann Miura-Ko taught a class with Steve Blank at Stanford, and it was Steve who introduced us before we teamed up to start Floodgate. And Eric Ries was a Consultant at Floodgate before he coined the term “Lean Startup” and decided to write a book.

Watching Customer Development and Lean Startups take off over the last decade has been exciting. Not only did these books become business best-sellers, they influenced tens of thousands of startups. Words like “minimum viable product,” customer development,” and “product/market fit” have become mainstream startup vernacular. The number of startups and the ability of founders to iterate intelligently exploded. And the financial markets followed the entrepreneurs. Micro-funds (like Floodgate and FirstRound Capital) and Accelerators (like Y Combinator) can be traced directly to the same insights.

There are occasional criticisms of these frameworks, and some founders have misused and overused them. But overall, the impact has been overwhelmingly positive. Entrepreneurship has improved. Innovation has become ever more democratized.

However…

Product/Market Fit is still critical — But it’s no longer enough

Fast forward ten years: Times have changed. What was new a decade ago has become mainstream. What was once a novel insight has become common knowledge. The downside of low barriers to entry for startups is the same as the upside — Low barriers to entry. The democratization of starting companies has led to too many startups. Way too many. Customers, prospective employees, investors, and many others now struggle to make sense of which companies matter in a very noisy and crowded startup environment. The startups that can’t break through this clutter won’t survive, much less create enduring value.

Racing to product/market fit is still necessary, but it is no longer enough. Savvy founders in today’s world need to focus on company design andcategory design in addition to product design.

Racing to product/market fit is still necessary, but it is no longer enough.

Enter Play Bigger

So now we come back to Play Bigger, a book written by four colorful characters named Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, Al Ramadan, and Kevin Maney.

Play Bigger authors Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, Al Ramadan, and Kevin Maney

This book, in addition to being a very fun read, matters because it points to new frameworks for thinking about Category Design and Company design in addition to Product design. I believe that the “6/10 Law,” “Category Kings,” and many other concepts discussed in the book will be meaningful to founders in the next ten years the same way the terms “minimum viable product” and “product/market fit” were in the last ten.

It is now so easy to start a startup that we have to play bigger…We have to care about starting and building something great. We need new ideas to build on solid foundations. The race to product/market fit is necessary and critical, but it is now just the ante to the game. The stakes are higher and the other players are better than ever before. PlayBigger matters because it helps founders play for bigger stakes and more significant impact — it helps entrepreneurs see the opportunity to build an exciting company and category in addition to a killer product.

It’s now so easy to start a startup that we have to play bigger.

Congrats to the PlayBigger team on a remarkable effort. It was fun to have the chance to work with you on some of the ideas in the book. You have made an important contribution to the legendary founders of tomorrow.