“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Boy, what’s an entrepreneur to do with all of this conflicting advice

Posted by direwolff on June 26, 2007

With the jump in activity from my recent work with Loyalty Lab, it’s taken its toll on my blog reading. It’s been worth it in some ways because I believe that retention marketing or permission marketing or loyalty marketing or whatever you want to call it, holds the key to some of the overarching privacy issues that are mounting on the Internet and legislatively. Issues that I expect will affect all sites and services that track users/members/buyers’ movements online without providing for a way to opt-out. But more on that in a future post.

The first blog I caught up with was Chris Law’s blog, 1000 Flowers Bloom. He doesn’t post very frequently, but I always enjoy reading when he does. I had the privilege of working with Chris at Tribe, and followed his and Paul Martino’s travails into Aggregate Knowledge, and his blog is my small way of keeping up with him. In Chris’ latest post, “Won’t you just get acquired“, he refers to a post by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo on MediaShift. Jennifer reflects in her post that a panel composed of Josh Koppelman, Julie Hanna Farris, and Paul Kedrosky seemed to agree with her take that many of the presenting companies at Supernova’s Connected Innovators session presented applications that were “features not a company”.

From here, I checked out Mark Pincus’ (another Tribe founder) latest post on “How NY is like burning man“, which provided the levity I needed to then go read Marc Andreessen‘s 13 blog posts since my last visit to his blog, which are always interesting and insightful. He’s getting lots of kudos from the blogosphere on the quality of his posts, and it’s well deserved. He’s one of those guys that “I remember when…” and he was bright then back in 1994, and he seems to have only gotten brighter with age. There were two new parts on his series, “The Pmarca Guide to Startups”. Because I was reading these on Google Reader, they were coming up in reverse chronological order, so I first caught part 4: The only thing that matters. Here Marc breaks down the components that most affect a start-up’s success as being, the team, the product and the market. It’s most certainly a worthwhile read, and while there are some assessments he makes that I’m not sure I fully agree with, his citing of Andy Rachleff’s Corollary of Startup Success, being “The only thing that matters is getting to product/market fit.“, is dead-on from my experience with start-ups as well. What’s appealing about this statement is that it reconciles my observations of start-up teams starting in one place and a year later evolving and finding their success in another area that they would never have reached had they not gone out to market and tinkered until they got the product/market mix right.

I then moved on to Marc’s “part 3: “But I don’t know any VCs”” post where towards the end he points readers to Sequoia’s Web site where they provide some very good guidelines for entrepreneurs who want to submit their business plans. Noteworthy to the title of my post, is under the “Elements of Sustainable Companies” column, the Focus item says “Customers will only buy a simple product with a singular value proposition.”.

The dichotomy that presents itself is that on the one hand some of the companies who appear to be very focused on a problem are being called features rather than companies (and accused of just wanting to get acquired, as though that should be a bad thing, without consideration that such an acquisition might occur as a result of the start-up addressing an unmet need for the acquirer), by some. On the other hand, we’re getting well heeled VCs advising focus and singular value propositions.

Somehow, in all of this, it’s the latter position that appeals to me the most, because I believe that even if an early stage company releases what is considered by some as only a feature, there’s a better chance of growing that into a company if you have the product right, than having what is considered a company and needing to change directions because the features aren’t quite there. As well, a good feature is more easily monetized than a company that may need to prove itself over a much longer period of time.

I guess the reality is that I also don’t think that Jennifer’s tone is about the whole feature thing is appropriate given that people build companies for many different reasons and shouldn’t be judged for those, (…hmmm…am I judging Jennifer here?…hmmm…).

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