Are You Best in the World at Something?

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You would be shocked at how few entrepreneurs—even the best ones—have a clear understanding of how to answer this question (or have even thought about it).

Most great startups are best in the world at something, even if that something isn’t big at first.  Think about recent success stories: Instagram, Facebook, Zynga, and so on.  Each one was clearly best in the world at something very specific.

In my hometown of Seattle, multiple startups can claim they are best in the world at something.  If you want to buy a home and plan to utilize the best online resources, Redfin is best in the world at that.  If you are a mom and want to find a good deal on clothes or a stroller, Zulily is better than anyone else.  Tableau is best in the world at helping you to visualize big data.  Apptio is better than anyone at helping CIOs manage the cost of their exploding IT infrastructure.  Decide is the best in the world at telling you whether the price of what you are thinking of buying will go up or down in the future.

I don’t think you need to be best in the world to have a good business.  You can be profitable and successful by just being good at something.  To grow a billion-dollar business, though, you need to be the best.

When I give pitch advice to entrepreneurs, I focus on this best-in-the-world point.  Tell me what you are (going to be) best in the world at up front and why that’s important.  If you are successful at convincing an investor, angel or VC, that you can be better than anyone else at something, you are likely coming back for a second meeting.   More importantly, if you figure out what you’re truly best at, you are on your way to building something truly meaningful.

  • Nat Brown

    It’s an excellent point to try to be the best in the world – and super important for you and your team to believe you are the best in the world, and to be able to defend how you are better (not just different) than other people.

    (Excited to see you blogging, your BB post brought tears to my eyes remembering my “first wife,” BB810, long-since divorced. Please be sure to mark up hyperlinks to these great local companies in your posts – Redfin, Zulily, Tableau, Apptio, and Decide – so people who don’t know them can get there fast!)

    • GG

      Yes, I have updated it with hyperlinks. Thanks!

  • Kulin

    Awesome advice! I completely agree. Focus on that one problem and make it big in that space. There is a dialogue I remember from a Bollywood flick where a martial arts teacher tells his student (translated) “I am not interested in the 1000 moves that you know. I am interested in that 1 move which you have practised a 1000 times.”

    Look forward to reading more posts!

    • greggottesman

      I love that quote from the Bollywood flick. Do you remember what movie it was from?

      • Kyle Kesterson

        “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks at once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

  • Shane Jones

    Reminds me of a Nike t-shirt that reads, “I’m the Michael Jordan of _______”

    Every entrepreneur should pick one up and fill in the blank with whatever it is you do. Mine reads, “I’m the Michael Jordan of Meetings”

  •,s,647/ Fallon

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  • Javier Cazares

    Great advice and article! Thanks for sharing – It will definitely help me decide on my Startup overall idea!

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  • Shalendra Chhabra (Shalen)

    This is a good post and reminds me of Fred Wilson’s post on identifying atomic unit of your product. So marrying your post with Fred’s, essentially as a company, at least identify your atomic unit and be the best at it -

    I would even extrapolate this to startup teams. Speaking from my own personal experience, if you have a team with complementary skill set with team members being the best at their required job function, as long as they all get along well, the chances of success are higher. Having said that, this reminds of Joe Kraus’s post on “If You Don’t Think You Need It, You Haven’t Seen Greatness” –

    PS: Glad that you are blogging.