I like to counsel that the best teams are often defined by what they choose not to do.
Too very true. I usually over complicate my projects as well...and what every colleague, firm, and even business class taught me...a refined niche is more valuable than a swiss army knife.
There's a reason the saying "there's an app for that," exists, because it solves a purpose and fills a clear and concise niche. If I can't pitch the core idea in one statement, I've failed before I've started.
Why is a refined niche more valuable than a Swiss army knife? What if a Swiss army knife is exactly what you need, where the integration of the features is the killer feature? There are cases where the integration of a few features is more important than either of them individually, and where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
Your exactly right, with the fact that those features serve 1 purpose and 1 niche.
To clear a little confusion by what I mean on unrefined products, I can think of a prominent Swiss Army Knife...Google.
If I asked you to convey to me what is Google as if I didn't know, you'd probably say they're a search engine. While I don't mean to discredit all the products Google has, they themselves have been known to kill off their own products (Reader, Checkout, Buzz, Wave, ect) to refine a centralized purpose (ex. if you sign up for youtube, you now have a google plus).
This is the art of the niche, bringing multiple features to form one cohesive purpose.
Yes. For example, I'm working on a language learning web/mobile app, where the value proposition is that you can use this one "Swiss army knife" tool to keep track of everything, to study in a consistent way, and that works on most devices all of the time. There are lots of great tools for language learning out there, lots of flashcard apps, apps for learning to write Chinese characters, for learning pronunciation, a great site with subtitled videos etc. Learning a language takes many years though, and throughout that time you'll be using lots of tools and lots of different resources, but they're all walled gardens and isolated, and mostly work for just one or two platforms. Switching between them and keeping data synced between all of them is a pain. Also, who knows if you'll be using an iPhone forever, and whether they'll ever come around to making an android version of that app you need?
I think this is a case where the integration of all the features and data is more than the sum of its parts. The difficult part is knowing what the essential features are, and providing something useful until all of the necessary features are there.
Always better to nail one thing down really well before you start thinking of other possibilities for a project/product, because it can most certainly distract you from accomplishing the small wins. Dwelling too much on all the things you can do over what you need to do at that very moment has proven to be toxic time and time again. As someone who has committed this very crime, I definitely understand where you're coming from.
I can not tell you the countless hours (which turn into days), that I've spent trying to perfectly code or execute a design or method. I've learned that the best steps to completion that I use (this is in regard to software and website dev)...
It's a bit naive to write such pieces without asking the question why do start up founders do this, really?
Here is the entrepreneur's perspective.
After all, we are not dumb. We may love to work but most of us wouldn't just want to take so many initiatives if we didn't get the impression that we must to acheive goal x.
In this case, goal x is often more funding or traction. And as part of the funding process, you get feedback about the milestones you must hit to get your next round of funding. Moreover, you get shit load of very conflicting feedback, in some cases by the same VC just on a different day.
Entrepreneurs trying to attack from many different angles are basically hedging their bets due to a lack of clear signal from the market.
The solution to this problem is not as simple as the original post makes it appear.
Great post by Mark Suster. I constantly struggle with analysis paralysis and saying 'no' to opportunities that sound like a great idea at first. It's easy to forget about added complexity and cost (e.g. technical debt, positioning, marketing, support, documentation, expectations, …)
Couldn't agree more (I am writing this from my own personal experience), Bandwidth is one of the (I think second) biggest internal reason for a startup to succeed or fail, way too many people (including me) tried to chew more than what they could swallow leading to waste of precious resources (time, money, human skills) which eventually leads to half baked product and loss of focus.
The number one reason is of course, you doing things which you don't like, are not good at and not enjoying what you are doing.