Strategy vs customer focus

December 03, 2020

When building a new business, focusing on strategy will guide you toward building a business that's valuable, and defensible.

Markets, competition, network effects. There's a big-picture, first-principles quality to strategy that reminds me of math, or physics. dy/dx. F=ma. I think technical people gravitate toward strategy because it feels like math; it's intellectually comfortable, something we know how to reason about, and manipulate.

But what strategy misses is customers—the human element—with all our quirks, our short attention spans, credit card balances, and proclivity to eat things we shouldn't.

Go ahead, build that perfect work of strategy—infinitely defensible, hugely valuable—in theory. Too bad nobody actually wants it.

If you want to keep customers front-and-center, follow Y Combinator's advice: make something people want. Get that right, and worry about the rest later.

(Sidenote: I think this is related to #14 and #15 from Slava's 57 startup lessons: Most investor advice [Ed note: strategy] is very good for optimizing and scaling a working business. Listen to it. Most investor advice isn’t very good for building a magical product. Nobody can help you build a magical product — that’s your job.)

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