The Focus On And Of WhatsApp

This morning I had a meeting with a couple entrepreneurs whose company was recently acquired. It was just a general catch up session, no real agenda. Still, it seemed quite random when a good third of our conversation was spent talking about WhatsApp and its incredible penetration in India.

Why was this growth happening? The consensus was: focus. On what they’re good at. On what their users want. On what ultimately matters.

A couple hours later, what at the time seemed a random conversation turned almost a little spooky when it was announced that Facebook would be acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion and change.

I’m not going to spend time breaking down this extraordinary deal as I know no more about it than what I’ve read. But what I do find fascinating is what’s becoming clear from those closest to the company: in an age of pomp and circumstance around all things startups, the team behind WhatsApp was all about keeping their heads down, focusing on product, and avoiding bullshit at all costs.

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Paul Graham:

I should mention one sort of initial tactic that usually doesn’t work: the Big Launch. I occasionally meet founders who seem to believe startups are projectiles rather than powered aircraft, and that they’ll make it big if and only if they’re launched with sufficient initial velocity. They want to launch simultaneously in 8 different publications, with embargoes. And on a tuesday, of course, since they read somewhere that’s the optimum day to launch something.

It’s easy to see how little launches matter. Think of some successful startups. How many of their launches do you remember? All you need from a launch is some initial core of users. How well you’re doing a few months later will depend more on how happy you made those users than how many there were of them.

100% agree. I’m still surprised how few entrepreneurs realize this despite the proof being everywhere you look. I get that you worked really hard on something for months (if not years) on end and you want to see (and want for your team to see) your startup’s name in lights. But it’s so much better when those lights are shined on a star, not an actor in an audition.

Very, very few startups are star-level right out of the gate. Use that time with less of the spotlight to your advantage. Learn how to become the star. Then the spotlight will find you.

Here’s what I saw, reading the tech news this morning:

BREAKING: Instagram lost tens of millions of users due to the TOS backlash!!!

Update: Actually, it wasn’t very many.

Update 2: Actually, any loses had nothing to do with the TOS fiasco.

Update 3: Actually, the data is fundamentally flawed.

Update 4: Actually, Instagram has gained users since the situation.

Update 5: Fuck. Whatever. This still totally matters. Reasons.

Another sterling day for the tech press.

Michael Arrington on the David Gregory AR-15 magazine fiasco:

If I was Gregory I would proudly turn myself in to the police and plead guilty to violating the law. It would be a powerful message that he truly believes in the laws he’s supporting and is willing to make a personal sacrifice to make this country safer. The fact that he isn’t doing that shows little more than hypocrisy.

That’s absolutely the right play here. How does Gregory not see that?