Twitter, Instagram, and shopping site Polyvore all have one important quality in common. They do one thing extremely well.
Zeroing in on one idea and executing it exceptionally is the key to entrepreneurial success, argues Daniel Roberts in “Zoom: Surprising Ways to Supercharge Your Career.” You don’t need a complex, multifaceted idea to succeed in today’s market, Roberts argues. Just pick one thing, and do it better than everyone else.
“These days many of the buzziest startups are brilliantly basic in concept,” he writes. “Whether you’ve come up with a completely revolutionary idea or you’re building upon a preexisting one, if it’s clear and addictive it will take off with users.”
Here’s a look at how the founders of Twitter, Instagram, and Polyvore found their one thing and made it work:
Make the business easy to understand.
The initial idea for Twitter was incredibly simple: create a way for people to share brief “status” updates about what they happened to be doing. When the company’s founders first rolled out the service internally, employees loved it. “It was fun, simple, and friendly,” Roberts writes. “And it took only a moment to understand how it worked.” He argues that Twitter has succeeded in large part because it never lost sight of that simple starting principle, even as it began to monetise its services and add new features. “If an idea is clever enough — simple, clean, and addictive, like Twitter — it can weather other problems that would normally bring a company down,” Roberts writes.
Strip the bells and whistles.
Before it was called Instagram, the founders had named it Burbn. Back then, it was supposed to be a location-based photo sharing app (a “mashup” of Foursquare and Flickr, as Roberts puts it). That idea garnered some interest from backers but failed to catch on after its initial release. So co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger decided to strip the app of all but one part — photo sharing. “Burbn had too many different features,” writes Roberts. “What would be a hit, they knew, was something simple that did one thing.” Sure enough, the night the app relaunched as Instagram in October 2010 the servers crashed within two hours from the flood of traffic.
Focus on what you do best.
When Jessica Lee first became CEO of Polyvore, the popular online shopping site, she decided that the company needed some serious streamlining. She began to cut extraneous features, minimize projects, and sent out a company-wide note asking staff to “identify what is most impactful to the company. Then figure out what to cut.” Simplicity was Lee’s obsession, Roberts writes. She wanted to create a smooth, simple customer experience. “We really try to focus,” she told Roberts, “because at the end of the day you’re going to be remembered for one thing.”
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