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Start Out Focused: Lessons from Intercom’s Cofounder (pt 2)

Leaning on Des Traynor’s recent talk “Lessons Learned In Growing A Product”, I want to highlight Des’ message on starting out very focused and simple. Des cited Gall’s Law around systems theory to build a successful company.
A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system. – John Gall (1975, p.71)**
I’ve written plenty of times about starting very focused including a chapter in Postmortem of a Failed Startup titled “Start Small and Targeted and KILL IT.” I believe it’s the smartest, quickest, and cheapest route to building a successful product/ company.

Some key points from Des about starting simple:
  • “Insanely big ideas should start insanely small”
  • Salesforce’s website started way back in the day with two calls-to-action/ messaging: “Free trial/ membership” and “Forecast the Pipeline”
  • “Start not where successful companies are, but where they started.” This point resonated with me greatly, too, because many big, successful companies tend to start very small solving a major problem. Over time, its breadth of products and services grow pushing complexity and pricing beyond many companies (especially smaller). This creates a gap for new players to come in simple, small, and focused. (And thus, the circle of life…)
  • When you know the problem well, distill to workflows which you build features to enable
  • “A small list of ‘target users’ beats a big list of non-customers”. This point goes into the importance of knowing your audience and solving their real pains.
There are lots more good points from Des’ talk to which I highly recommend you check out.

What are some of your take-aways from Des’ talk? Any of these messages resonate with you? Why?

** Note: John Gall was an American author and pediatrician who wrote in 1975 a book, General systemantics : an essay on how systems work, and especially how they fail....

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