Feel smarter I hope? This post got me thinking about a number of different topics, and I’d like to share one.
What kind of entrepreneur are you?
I’ll suggest two basic types. There are artists and there are strategists.
The artist is intensely product focused. He* has a singular vision for something he wants to bring into the world. He may be driven by an inner voice, or he may be driven by the roar of the crowd. Either way his goal is to create a product. He thinks of everything in terms of product. Without a great product there is nothing, there is no value. Without a great product, all other parts of the business are a futile waste of time. Create a truly great product and all else will follow.
The strategist focuses on charting a path to market dominance. He observes the landscape, looking for paths that get him from where he stands to a massive spread of virgin, fertile land he can own and defend. He thinks intensely about how his business can uniquely create value for a set of people, and builds a product around that value proposition. Without a path to a monster win there’s no point in continuing. Eventually the company will run out of room to operate even with a great product, and that will be that. Without the path, all other parts of the business are a futile waste of time. Follow a truly great path and all else will follow.
You might say the artist is product-first, and the strategist is market-first. That doesn’t mean the artist is necessarily an engineer or designer, nor does it mean the strategist is a marketing person. It’s just a way to describe how an entrepreneur approaches his task.
Thiel’s notes sound very much strategic, and his thoughts are absolutely fascinating. I love this kind of thinking, and I love to think this way – precisely because I naturally tend toward the artist category, I think.
The entrepreneur’s job, of course, is to be both of these kind of people. Product/market fit happens when you do both well.
But I bet you could categorize every founder you meet as primarily an artist, or primarily a strategist. Try it some time.
*I am going to use “he” as the gender neutral, at least for this post. Someone needs to freaking invent a gender neutral pronoun one of these days. “He/She” is a pain in the butt; switching between “he” and “she” is confusing; using “she” instead of “he” doesn’t really solve the problem. I admit scaling the gender neutral pronoun will not be easy.