Thinking big and small


I came across this post today by Gabriel Weinberg on thinking big in startups, and it struck a chord with one of the biggest lessons I have learned in my startup career thus far.

As far as I can tell, it is critical for an entrepreneur to be able to think both big and small.

Thinking big gives you a clear understanding of how you intent to change the world. It gives you your mission, which drives you through the entire startup rollercoaster (which is damn tough!). Thinking big ensures that you are tackling a large market. The big vision is essentially what your startup could look like once it hits traction and scales out.

However, thinking big has a major problem. You begin a startup with nothing. Zero traction. Zero scale. No code. No users. No data. Nothing. You don’t magically take over the world overnight. You have to begin with a few small steps.

Here is where thinking small is critical.

You must take your big picture, and distill it down to that first step. The first step is your entry point into the large picture. It is best if this entry point (1) can be tested in a small amount of time, (2) requires relatively little resources, and (3) is something that a market needs right now. Some people may call this an minimum viable product (MVP), but I like to call it my entry point. If selected properly, the entry point should be simple, but powerful. It is enough to begin gaining traction, and sets you on your way towards your larger vision.

What order do you go in? Big first? Or small first?

From what I can tell, Amazon seems to have gone big first. I would bet that Jeff Bezos understood where he was going, and began with an online bookstore. On the contrary, Mark Zuckerberg seems to have gone small first. He built a small thing for his university that gained traction. Afterwards, he developed the large vision and mapped out the steps for accomplishing it.

It appears you can go either way, but at some point, you must be able to think both big and small.

P.S. This is post number #91 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Or, check out my current project Soulmix.

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