A single idea

There is nothing more powerful than a founder with one idea.

There is nothing more destructive than a founder with two.

One of my first companies was a video streaming service focused on how-to videos and tutorials. This was long before Youtube existed and all that infrastructure that came with it. We were licensing and digitizing television content for the web to build up our library and creating new content in partnership with tool manufacturers and home renovation retail giants. We even had the requisite “celebrity” representation — HGTV early favourites The Furniture Guys (we were a startup…and that was our budget).

As we were building our core, I had the idea to create a secondary revenue stream (WELL before our first actually materialized). We would create a bar-code scanner that a consumer would be able to use to scan any bar code on any of the tools they bought in order to see videos on how to use the product but also their warrantee information, support numbers and instructions.

Maybe a good idea but it was the wrong time to introduce a completely different product to the mix. It became a distraction and confused our primary customers, our team and our business model. Needless to say, it was quickly killed but not quickly enough.

Skip ahead in time to another company that I came in to be the CEO four years into its existence. It focused on IT administration from handheld devices and we were faced with the same type of decision.

The company had 5 separate software products for 5 different types of users — some priced for enterprise and others for consumers. We were also a company of only 8 people at the time I took over.

The path was clear.

  • One of the products was driving 90% of the revenue and scaling but was not as “cool” as the others
  • Having 5 products and a small team meant updates and maintenance took forever to cycle through…one product at a time
  • The company had fallen in love with the launch but we should have fallen in love with solving a singular problem
  • Our sales and marketing was scattered and broad.

We were a distracted company, doing too much, too soon. Each of the products were contributing to sales however we were not putting the work in proportionally to the revenue each were generating.

I ended up forcing our focus to one single product but it had to be something that couldn’t be undone — burn the boats. I sold one product, killed one product and integrated the other 3 into our flagship product that was now 100% of our focus, 100% of our revenue, 100% of our marketing efforts and 100% of our target customer.

This change was hard and cost me a co-founder but the impact was immediate.

It is hard to stay on course but the idea that brought the company to light deserves everyone’s complete attention until it has been exhausted.