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Focus. Focus. Focus. (ezliu.com)
72 points by ezl on May 2, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 22 comments

The reality is that none of those things (except 8 and 11, which have strong offerings already) listed are billion dollar ideas.

This is just a reiteration of the current Internet strategy:

1. Target a niche. 2. Create a strong base. 3. Grow like mad. 4. Move into other offerings.

This is exactly what trees in a dense forest do - they grow up as fast as possible, and then when they're on top they branch out to both absorb more sunlight and prevent competing trees from outgrowing them.

So the real message is 'focus, focus, focus, until you get big and then try and do everything in your space before the second-starters outpace you.'

I'm not saying this is a bad thing - from an ecological perspective, it is very good for the forest, but not so good for the trees.

Thanks for the comment, debacle.

To be clear, I'm not trying to say this is a good way to run a startup or that anyone should do it.

In particular, I am really bad at doing more than one thing. It is one of my personal weaknesses. Some people, like my previous cofounder Andrew, are great at it. But as a result, I HAVE to be focused to get anything done. This isn't true of everyone, its just something that I finally realized about myself and its changed the way I work. My typical day literally starts with me adding to my to do list, ordering it, then knocking them out in order.

I think the idea of a startup founder with nothing to show for himself but a string of dead websites (me) advising other people on optimal strategic decisions for their startups is a bit silly. I think all those ideas I cut out are great ideas, my brain just isn't big enough to hold more than one.

I don't want to make you feel like you've been called out. There are many startups with this vehicle for growth, and it seems to be the YC startup MO.

Twitch.tv is possibly the best example of this phenomenon.

Twitch.tv is a Justin.tv project- whose strange start is probably an even better example of what you're saying

Ah, sorry, I didn't know they weren't one in the same. I thought Twitch.tv was Justin.tv rebranded.

Justin.tv was who I meant.

Love this analogy, but sometimes I want the forest to keep its diversity.

This is great. We've been hearing the mantra of MVP and focus for quite a while now, and it's nice to see an example that really lives up to the focus mentality.

I hope Rocketlease takes off soon-(as a tenant) I hate having to take paper forms, worry about making a "typo" and needing white-out, then having to fax it back to the apartment within a 24 hour period.

If you haven't, I highly recommend reading Jonah Lehrer's book Imagine: http://www.amazon.com/Imagine-Creativity-Works-Jonah-Lehrer/...

It turns out that there are two sides to creativity: a more left-brained tendency to focus on something and take it to completion and a more right-brained tendency to have inspirations and insights.

It certainly sounds like you've got the left-brained part of it down, but I don't think that shutting out new ideas like this is a good idea. What's important is being able to recognize which random ideas are worth entertaining and which ones aren't. I know that if I shut out all of my random ideas, I'd have dismissed some of the best ones.

This isn't just an abstract question either. Having really great ideas that are executed well is the difference between a product that merely does its job and a product that people love and tell all their friends about.

So I've got a question for ya. At what point do you know your MVP is actually a MVP? Part of the issue with focus, as I see it, is what if you focus on the wrong thing. Do you have metrics in mind to know when to bail or pivot? A stop or limit (I forget which is which) point.

So I'm curious about what you are planning to watch for? What signs will tell you to focus on something else?

Excellent write up. And most of all thanks for highlighting your service. I'm entering my 2nd month as a landlord so I don't need your service right now. But I know I would have used it a few months ago when looking for our first tenant. I'll bookmark your site for future use. If things go well, I won't be needing it for a few years though (fingers crossed).

Have you encountered any legal issues with this? I've only briefly looked into property management/rental issues but I have seen some states that require a person to be a licensed real estate broker in order to negotiate a lease.

Do you process applications but leave the actual lease agreement to the property manager or owner?

Did anyone else notice that the link to the product web site was on the text "online apartment applications" rather than the product name "Rocket Lease"? I know it's good SEO to backlink on the keyword, but it still seems grey-hat to me.

I disagree. If you can't link from your blog to your startup however you want, we're all in trouble.

That he prefers it to rank for the type of thing that it does vs. its name is absolutely the choice of the author. I don't see anything 'grey hat' about having an understanding of SEO.

That you admit that "it's good SEO" then question it is puzzling to me. Is there a reason I the author should prefer to use bad SEO on his personal blog?

Good SEO is targeted towards computers rather than humans. In the case of this newsletter-style post, potential customers would probably want to click the product name to get more details, rather than clicking a series of words which might lead to the product web site or might lead to a Wikipedia page or something else. Since it was the first instance of the product name, I would have expected it to be linked. Hence, the potential grey-hat. Not a big deal, I was just curious what people thought.

"Good SEO is targeted towards computers rather than humans."

You're obviously not very good at SEO or else you'd know this is completely untrue.

Hi, that was definitely an SEO motivated decision.

I'm not quite sure about white/grey/black hat, but I felt it would be acceptable to link to my own startup with a keyword of my choosing.

It honestly never even crossed my mind that it might be considered anything less than above board. I'd be interested in feedback from other people if that is considered a taboo move.

He mentions his product in the beginning of the post. It had nothing to do with the post. Does that make the mention grey-hat PR?


The guy took the time to write a solid post about his experience. An experience that will help him out.

For free.

Least he can do to reward himself (and us accept) is the use of the most advantageous anchor texts for links in his post.

well there are two other places in the blog that has "Rocket Lease" linked to the site. It seems like he used a good linking style for the context in that first sentence. It allowed him to highlight the startup name with bold first (rather than having it be just another link on the page) followed by a brief description of the product as the link. It flows.

I found it more odd that the logo on the right just links to the image rather than the site. But that might be for a reason I'm not privy to.

I forgot that you can link images. Thanks for pointing that out... Just started blogging so I forget stuff like that.


I feel for you re the advice. Simple ideas are subject to the "bike shed" phenomenon. Since people are able to understand your product, they assume they know what you should do next.

That's a long list of things rocket lease does not do.

This is true, Alex. there are in fact many, many more things Rocket Lease does not do that would be very valuable. These include, but are not limited to:

  - Curing cancer
  - Making solar power economically viable
  - Better public transportation systems
  - Improving public education
  - Picking up my dry cleaning

That probably seems aggressive but its not intended to be. From my standpoint those are just all businesses I don't do (well, except for picking up my dry cleaning, I do that. But Rocket Lease will not pick up your dry cleaning)

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