Andrew Chen, Quibb, Uber

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Founder & CEO at Minbox

+1. pm-fit trumps all in consumer apps. once found, though, it takes a great team not to F it up. twitter did an amazing job of saying NO. of keeping their feature-set minimal and having a strong vision for the future. they are still very slow to move and that has kept the energy and angst in the product that empowers a paradigm shift. I honestly believe that twitter is way more grounded than Facebook, which has turned into a bloated mess of features I don't care about...


All true, but in the midst of running a startup, how do we identify the one or two things that matter? That's the real problem.


Whoops, I meant to reply to the original post. Sorry. Also sorry for replying to myself.

Quibb, Uber

Jeff, what I was trying to say in the second half is that at least for consumer apps, the problem always comes down to:
1) is there a big market? (100s of millions, or billions)
2) does your product work for that market? (product/market fit)
3) can your product reach this big market? (distribution that scales)

You could probably add some more specific stuff you are working on social, mobile, local or some other dimension, to support the above.

Most seed startups I look at have nailed maybe 1 of these 3. Most startups seem to fail without ever reaching product/market fit, much less scaling their distribution.

For Twitter, they were able to solve 1/2/3, which made it so that all their biz model, tech, investor, and cofounder problems went away. On the other hand, you can have lots of money, a great biz model, and amazing founders, but if you don't solve 1/2/3 you still fail.

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I agree with your high level points, although when I saw the title of your post -- "ooh awesome, Andrew is going to drop some knowledge about how to avoid chaos" -- I was hoping for more tactical, actionable recommendations :)

PMF before scaling. It's a lesson I've learned the hard way, and judging by advice I get often (about how to get users, regardless of PMF), it's not widely felt yet. I do find that interesting.

Quibb, Uber

Re: tactical, actionable recommendations, I think unfortunately the true answer is- "it depends" :) Not a nicely tweetable/bloggable story, unfortunately.

I can definitely say that the first thing is to figure out what step you are in the process, and then spending all of your energy on that before moving onto the next thing. There's no sadder thing than to watch entrepreneurs with shitty products try to "hustle" to drive up their numbers when they should just be making the core experience better.

There's definitely a whole interesting discussion to be had around "How do you know if you're at product/market fit or not?" and then "If you're not at P/M fit, how do you get there?"

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Product at Weave

Interested in a discussion about the last two questions you mentioned.

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Product Lead at Flurry

Focusing on the "one or two things that matter" is really difficult but critical. Regardless of what you're dealing with, two tactics I've always found to be helpful are:
1) remove yourself from the situation and write a letter of advice as if you were advising a friend on how to deal with all the competing priorities. Forcing yourself to write and articulate priorities really helps the sorting function
2) Draw yourself a 2x2 matrix with an x-axis that is "urgency" and a y-axis that is "importance" and then plot all the items. First, simply untangling what's urgent vs. important is useful as in the "fog of war" they can become conflated. Second, once you've plotted your items you can handle the urgent & important ones, move on to the important ones and delegate the urgent ones but not important ones.

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Founder & CEO at Minbox

Nice Kenton. I think some tactics on how to avoid chaos would be great. One thing I think about to drown out the noise is "what will double my business"? What features or tasks are likely to impact growth/sales directly, and do so NOW? That tends to realign and pull me out of the muck.

Another thing you can do is always revert back to your users and ask them questions. Get out of the building!

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