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Startups: Be Awesome At Something

Published: August 30, 2016

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?