The One-Trick Pony Filter

Focus, the Secret Weapon

This one tenet can help filter out most bad investments (of money, or worse, time) for startups.

There’s one thing that separates the proverbial boys from men, as far as startups go: Super-fans. And their focus to solve for a very well defined need for those superfans.

I want to start by acknowledging that most startups have to deal with the inevitable, difficult, trade-off between staying focused on solving a difficult problem for their super-fans vs. staying opportunistic (at the expense of focus). There are enough startups doing either, and succeeding (in a financial sense). As an example, Uber is a great example of a company solving a specific, focused problem. Conversely, the Rocket Internet group operates as an opportunistic player in the eCommerce space.

My claim is that most companies aren’t able to successfully emulate Rocket Internet’s rather ​unique operating model.

However, Uber or AirBnB’s focus — or one-trick-ponyism — is definitely a trait other startups can emulate. Most companies that build amazing products, scale fast, build great traction, and have (relatively) uniformly good promoter scores from their customers, do so on the basis of focus. Look around you: Google, Facebook, IKEA, Apple, Nike etc.

Focus begets expertise, expertise begets great execution, and great execution begets superfans, and that’s what makes a startup successful.

The summary? If you’re going to invest your time or money in a startup, it better be a one-trick pony.

Originally published at