Master & Conquer
Get your basics right
Very often, I find myself asking a founder for their cohorts. Most of the time, they don’t have them, nor do they understand what I mean by that. I share with them that it’s how their users or customers behave over time in regards to the usage of their product, whether they’re free or paid users. It’s measured over days, weeks, months, quarters, or years, depending on how often people use that product.
And then we dig into that rabbit hole… What’s the breakdown of your cohort by acquisition channels, type of users, or even after certain actions within your product… How do you define the true activation of a user… Is it after a certain number or type of actions, a period of time, or a threshold…
I like those numbers to be precise, to provide a clear perspective about how the business is trending, to be able to separate vanity from reality, noise from truth. I like data because it’s usually a good way to see whether an entrepreneur has their basics right.
I also like clear frameworks of understanding as they demonstrate the effort to break down complex matters into simple principles. For instance, when we invested in Zenly back in 2015 or in BeReal back in 2021, our focus was to understand what would make them successful, and beyond the data that we looked at in detail, we asked ourselves what was necessary to succeed over time. Consumer social applications have a very simple mechanism. First, you need people to create an active graph, meaning that they connect with people who matter to them. Then, they are supposed to perform actions in an open-closed loop in order to come back on a regular basis. Finally, as they use the product more and more, you want them to save a certain number of things on the app, forming a system of record that they don’t want to lose. Within those basics, you’re trying to craft a product that will become a habit, and you will fight against counterforces as people become easily overwhelmed, bored, annoyed, and distracted.
Well, when I talk to a founder building a social consumer product, I don’t expect them to have all the answers, but their thinking says a lot about whether they’re delusional or intentional about the product they’re building and how much they rely on what they analyze thoroughly versus what they think.
No art nor magic will increase the odds of success in the long term if you don’t take very seriously the qualitative and quantitative feedback of your users. And it’s not about collecting and looking at the surface. It’s about digging into the data you receive. In coaching, we say that emotion is data. Every single qualitative question that brings you an answer must lead to another. Every single data point must be investigated further. You should be able to navigate them without even thinking twice.
When I started my coaching program back in 2020, I found really challenging how much we had to train around simple mechanisms to become effective at coaching people. It wasn’t about being knowledgeable or gaining technicity. It was about training consistently about the way we engage with people because it’s the foundation around which everything else gets built. When you’re launching a company, it’s exactly the same. Nothing matters more than to get your basics right.
If emotion is data, people are as well. People and data are two critical pillars of every single company. If you’re not investing a good chunk of your time on it every single week to become a master in those two domains, you’re screwing up. Whenever you chat with an investor, a partner, or a customer, take it as a chance to test whether you really master what you’re talking about or if you’re still compensating for your lack of depth, clarity, and precision.
You are not an exception.
Master to Conquer!