Be first, or be better. That’s how to amaze.
In 2013, we were building something that we thought was going to be awesome. We were building something that we thought the world wanted. We were building something that we truly gave a shit about, and if you know me, you know that’s my baseline for doing anything.
We were building a startup called Tuteable, a platform that was designed to connect software developers and engineers who had technical problems with experts who could solve their problems within 15 minutes.
Here’s an old blog post about what we were doing back then:
Adam Miller and John Westenberg on their latest venture Tuteable, which guarantees you an expert solution for your…medium.com
By mid 2014, we had shut down. What we were doing was beaten to the market by Google’s Helpouts. It was beaten in quality by a half a dozen other startups, including Clarity.fm. In short, all we ended up building was a startup that did something half as good as something else, after somebody else.
In my experience, that’s never going to work for anyone.
In my experience, there are two ways to build a product, if a startup wants to succeed. They can be the first to the market, and hold the distinction of dreaming up the future before their competition, or they can create the best work possible and hold the distinction of building quality.
That’s the approach we take at Creatomic when we’re working on a marketing campaign, or when we take on sponsorship. We position first, we position best, or we don’t take on project.
Looking back on Tuteable, we weren’t on the scene early enough to make a difference in our timing. And we didn’t build a product good enough to make a difference in our quality. That’s a combination that makes a startup and a product fizzle out with no impact at all.
We were quickly forgotten. Nowadays, I only think about the name of the startup when I’m updating my portfolio or cracking a joke about my “Five Fuck Ups.” (The 5 times I’ve really blown something)
Here’s something else I know to be true. You either shoot for first, you shoot for best, or you end up forgotten. The first is the Pebble. The best is the Apple Watch. In 10 years time, people aren’t going to give a shit about much else.
That smartwatch example is really the key here. There have been dozens of smartwatches since the Pebble, and before the Apple Watch, and none of them hold a whole lot of sway over consumers, reviewers, the media or me.
I want to be clear, that I don’t see either my Pebble or my Apple Watch as being incredible products. In fact, I haven’t worn either in literally months. But in the whole smartwatch space, they’re the only ones that really matter.
I’ve got a couple points though.
If you’re first, you’ve got to make sure you’re building something people want.
If you’re best, you don’t have to be the best in the whole world. But you do have to be the best in at least one key area that can make a difference.
If you’re creating a company right now, think about that. Think about whether or not you have the raw fucking guts it takes to break ground on something new and game changing, or whether you have the patience to learn and innovate on what has gone before you.
Because building an also-ran product is never going to make a difference to anyone.
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MJ from Thymos works with people trying to create more joy and success in their life: from abuse survivors all the way through to startup founders — really anyone who is looking for more meaning and a sharper edge to approach life with. I’ve managed to convince him to give everyone who emails him a free consultation. You can reach him on email@example.com and he responds to every email.