Focus on the prize. Focus on the goal. Never on your opponents. Then go to work, hard and fast and smart. Winning is an art in itself, to become a winner you need a different mindset. It all starts with your preparation.
Drop the nukes,
then fight the ashes
Step 1. You must prepare heavily to win. That might include waking up at 4:00 am every day for a couple of years to understand the tech industry via its daily news or maybe finish a complicated MIT Phd thesis that will give you insights no one has in a particular field. We call this type of advantage a bomb. And you need as many bombs as you can possibly get your hands on: algorithms, people, processes, information, industry connections, financial leverage, social networks, and so on.
Step 2. Hire bombs. Don’t hire people. Not even engineers. Not even the best engineers. Hire bombs. Hire the qualities, insights, tools and ill-understood information that comes with that particular employee: the winner. The employee-winner is a bomb dropper that has been doing it over and over for as long as you can tell. Maybe he has a double major and has a particular view of things, maybe she’s bilingual and conquers a broader demographic with her campaigns. Maybe, and just maybe, you’re interviewing an IMO champion with two math olympiad medals and a super powerful ease in coming up with killer algorithms. So hire that, hire that superpower, that advantage, that bomb. Hire at least a dozen or two of such bombs.
Step 3. Building nukes. Amplify the reach, impact and depth of your team of bombs by lining them up in a very particular way. Set up your product development process such as every member of the team gains from each other. This is the amplification process, and to make it work you need a platform: good management, good communication and bold teamwork. Notice that teamwork is not just working in teams, but working as part of a team that amplifies your strengths. You need to do this at least for the first 50 members of your organization. Ask yourself, how is this person amplified in the team. Then manage the amplification by setting up meetings, training sessions and co-working sessions.
Don’t hire the best.
Hire the bombs.
Step 4. Line up your nukes. Use your preparation, your insights and your personal bombs to amplify whatever your team did. Be merciless in this process. One by one, go over each of your features and make them bolder, better and more irresistible. Do this on a daily basis at lease for six months or so. If you lack personal power to amplify the work of your team, either, grow, hire or postpone fighting.
Step 5. Win. Don’t fight, don’t ever fight. If you fight you’ll lose. If you fight you’ll end up with so many cuts and bruises that you may not be able to keep fighting. Just win. Win a niche, a whole market, or a whole demographic. But win. Just drop the nukes and fight the ashes. You can do this by making sure you’re targeting a market so small, that the big guys don’t yet care about you.
Step 6. Recursive growth. You don’t want linear growth. No! You need recursive growth, your bomb making startup is a set of competitive advantages, resources and people that can scale very very far. Your job is finding this recursive growth opportunities in your market. And keep growing in that direction.
A couple of good books to read in order to fully understand this scenario are The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Startup Playbook.