Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Bet on Technical Insights

how-google-worksI’m reading and enjoying How Google Works by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg right now.  I’m only a third in, but can say that I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in a long time. Highly recommended for anyone building a tech company… of any size or stage.

One of the early concepts discussed is how critical it is for a tech startup to be focused on adding value to the world with genuine technical insights

With all the talk about sales and marketing in Atlanta startup world, it is an important reminder that you must somewhere in your product have a true technical insight that has a spark of magic.  Here are some of my favorite ideas from the book:

Bet on technical insights, not market research.

In Google’s case, the products that succeeded were based on a technical insight (serving more relevant ads, searching faster, filtering images with difficult-to-do algorithms) where the products that failed “lacked that fundamental technical insight that would shift the cost-performance curve nonincrementally and provide significant differentiation. (iGoogle, Desktop, Knol, Notebook, and even the popular Reader).

We are in a period of combinatorial innovation.

There is so much opportunity right now to combine platforms, data, technologies to solve big problems or reimagine solutions to the current ways of doing things.  (Personally, I call this entrepreneurial alchemy…mixing all kinds of crazy stuff together trying to make gold.)

Don’t look for faster horses.

From the book: “When you base you product strategy on technical insights, you avoid me-too products that simply deliver what customers are asking for.”    For those who read Steve Jobs bio, you know that he was a master of knowing what the user wanted … before the user did.  The book continues: “That sort of incremental innovation can work very well for incumbents who are concerned with maintaining the status quo and quibbling over percentage points of market share. But if you are starting a new venture or trying to transform an existing enterprise, it’s not enough.

In short, if you’re in a crowded market, don’t try to find your way out just with your messaging, marketing, and sales strategy. Spend time in your product, with your engineers. Look for deep technical innovations.

When you do start to uncover these insights, the entrepreneur/CEO’s job is to package them up and figure out how to get that product in the hands of as many people as possible.   Granted, selling is just as important!! Looking for technical insights in your product… is a good reminder about what has to be at the core of what you’re all about. 

More to come from this book as I work my way through it.  Entrepreneurs won’t be disappointed in the read.