In my talk on entrepreneurship (“The Startup Doctrine”) I have a section which digs into making the main thing the main thing.

John MacFarlane, the founder of Sonos, described this as “the advice […] is among the best I’d give anybody.”

Figure out what your (product) priorities are. Settle on them. And then stick to them.

When Sonos launched, the team had three priorities: Quality, time to market and cost. The Sonos crew decided that quality is their number one priority – which led them to postpone their launch until they got the product just right.

Take someone like Apple as a counter-example: Apple has a specific cadence for their iOS products; they want to release a new iPhone every Fall. They value time to market over cost and features. And so they focus on getting their new iPhones into customers’ hands in the Fall over holding the launch back to either make the phone cheaper or add one more feature.

Figure out what your priorities are, rank them, get everyone on the same page and act accordingly. When you hit some snafus (and you inevitably will) – you now have a framework which will allow you and your team to make the right decision. And as you have a framework your decision won’t look arbitrary. Plus your priorities will ultimately filter through your values and guide your companies’ behavior.

As Singularity University’s Graduate Studies Program I invited my former boss, good friend and now partner at Greylock Partners John Lilly to speak about (venture) funding and his lessons learned from being deep in the trenches of entrepreneurship.

John made a comment which needs repeating: Distribution advantages trump nearly everything.

Assuming you have a decent product or service and your solution has reached proper product/market fit – the game shifts from a product-development play to a distribution play: She who gets her product into most hands will win. Simple as that.

History is full of companies which had comparable products in market at the same time – the ones with distribution advantages typically win. When eBay entered the German auction market there were something like eight other online auction houses; with at least one or two very strong competitors. But eBay had the distribution advantage of being global and thus allowing for cross-border trade plus the team rocked and built tons and tons of partnerships. Soon there was only eBay. WhatsApp continues to win as most of your friends are on WhatsApp – so why would you use anything else? Google won in search as their business model creates abundant income which Google pours back into building the best possible search engine.

When building your company focus on creating a distribution advantage – this can be built into your business models (marketplaces tend to be “winner-takes-it-all” situations), the strength of your partnerships or any other factor.


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