Counterintuitive Advice for Visionary Founders: Atomize, Atomize, Atomize

I just got a call from the founder of a new consumer Web startup, and I found myself beating the same drum that I’ve been hammering on in other similar conversations recently: the more ambitious your vision, the more you need to “atomize” it. By atomize I mean find the most compact unit of value you can create to engage and win the hearts of the audience you want to serve. Instead of trying to ship the vision, just ship that unit – and that unit only – and keep hammering away at delighting your target audience with that unit until your Me Value delta is big enough to carry your users to the next (probably buggy) set of features.

This is difficult advice for most founders to take. They have a full-color, singing and dancing image in their head of how the future will look when their vision is fully realized, and they want to bring the whole thing to life all at once, not in little bites. But as I can attest from my own painful experience with Judy’s Book, this is an almost-guaranteed recipe for failure.

Taking this advice doesn’t mean giving up on your big vision, it’s just a reminder to take smaller bites. And if I say it with conviction, it’s just because every time I repeat this advice to someone else I’m really just reminding myself not to make the same mistake twice.