Product > Strategy > Business Model

One of the mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is they move to business model before locking down strategy. The way I like to think about this is get the product right first, then lock down the strategy of the business, then figure out the business model.

Getting product right means finding product market fit. It does not mean launching the product. It means getting to the point where the market accepts your product and wants more of it. That means different things in consumer, saas, infrastructure, hardware, etc, but in every case you must get to product market fit before thinking about anything else. And, I believe, moving to business model before finding product market fit can be the worst thing for your business.

Once you find product market fit and start thinking about business model, I suggest you take a step back and work with your team (and investors) to develop a crisp and well formed strategy for your business. Investors, at least good investors, are very helpful with this stage. If you watched the John Doerr interview I posted yesterday, you hear him talk about strategy a lot (Intel, Amazon, Google, etc). The best VCs are very strategic, have seen strategies that work and ones that don't, and can be a great partner to develop a straetgy with. This is one of my favorite things to do with entrepreneurs.

I remember back to the 2009 time period at Twitter. The service had most certainly found product market fit. And the team turned its attention to business model. There were all sorts of discussions of paid accounts, subscriptions, a data business, and many more ideas. At the same time, Ev Williams was articulating a strategy that had Twitter becoming the "an information network that people use to discover what they care about." And so the strategy required getting as many sources of information on to Twitter and as many users accessing it. It was all about network size. That strategy required a business model that kept the service free for everyone and open to all comers. That led to the promoted suite business model. Twitter executed product > strategy > business model very well.

We have also had many portfolio companies build revenue models that did not line up well with the strategic direction. And in some cases, the companies really did not have a well articulated strategic direction at all. That led to a lot of wasted energy building a team and a customer base that ultimately was not of value to the business. We have seen teams walk away from parts of their business because of such mistakes. 

These kinds of mistakes are usually not fatal. Not finding product market fit is fatal. But going down the wrong path in terms of strategy and business model can be fixed. But it is painful, costly, dilutive, and sometimes can lead to a change in management.

So my advice is not to rush into business model without first finding product market fit and then taking the time to lock down on a crisp, clear, and smart strategy for your business. From there business model will flow quite naturally and you will be on your way to success.