You spend enough time with successful people and you start to notice something. They’re not batting 100%. They’re far from perfect and not too different from the rest of us.

So what’s different? Why do they come across like everything they touch turns to gold?

I’ve noticed a few common traits:

  • They don’t dwell on mistakes other than to learn; they fail fast and move on quickly
  • They promote their wins well leveraging the concept that success begets more successes
  • They appear to be lucky but are more often just taking more at bats than most


a16z partner Benedict Evans had an astute observation last week.

As voice-based interfaces improve what they can do (e.g. by adding more “skills”), how do you inform, train and perhaps most importantly remind end users of what they can do, without a GUI to do so?

Well, here are three ideas:

  1. Leverage recommendation engines (think Google Now, Netflix, etc) to proactively talk to users. For example, what if Alexa had motion sensing on it and when it saw me walk by the first time each day it told me what the weather was going to be
  2. Developers must design and build for a wider array of edge cases. For example, when listening to Pandora the phrases, “Thumbs up,” “I like this song,” and “Yes! More of this!” should all be able to rate the song higher.
  3. And probably easiest is to remember you do still have a GUI. For example, Alexa’s companion mobile app could use notifications and suggestions to help users maximize their Echoes. Yet in its current form the app feels like an afterthought.

Here’s a common question I hear teams ask their customers during product discovery:

Would you buy X if we built it?

That’s the wrong question to ask though. Customers’ expressed needs and wants often don’t match their actions. So how do you get around this problem?

Simple – assume you’ve already built it and start selling it. You don’t need a finished product to sell it; you don’t even need a prototype or an MVP. After all, that’s what many Kickstarters and other vaporware videos are. So you say:

We’ve built X. Want to buy it?

And then when (or really if) they say yes you follow up with, “GREAT! We’ll configure it for your team and that will be ready in N weeks. In the meantime let’s train your team so they’re ready to hit the ground running when the product is set up.”