Boil the Ocean or Wait for the Tide to Rise

For most situations, focusing initially on a tight niche and then waiting for the tide to rise makes the most sense. But too many startups try to aim to “boil the ocean”.

David Cummings on Startups

There’s an entrepreneurial tendency to try and be all things to all people. The thinking goes that if some pain or need in the market has been identified, why not service it since we’re trying to build a company. Generally, I like to think about two common strategies and often pick the one that’s simpler:

  • Boil the Ocean – The idea is to tackle the largest, most general problem in a market and build a solution that will be most ubiquitous (think Dropbox for file sychronizing or where Mailchimp is heading with email marketing).
  • Set Sail and Wait for the Tide to Rise – Pick a more narrowly defined segment of the market, typically the small-to-medium sized business area since they can adopt a solution faster, and then as the market grows, slowly move up market (think for customer relationship management).

Almost always, entrepreneurs go after the boil the…

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