Simple is Difficult for Entrepreneurs

Many startups talk about keeping things simple, almost like a badge of honor. When trying to solve a problem, present a message, or interacting with a user, complexity is the natural response. Humans, especially engineers, enjoy providing comprehensive solutions that meet the needs of as many people as possible. Or do they? On average, making something simple and good is much harder than making something merely good.

Here are several areas where I’ve seen startups have difficulty with simple but good:

  • Elevator Pitch – More often than not, elevator pitches are too complicated and don’t leave the recipient with a decent understanding of the idea (see Offline Analogy to Describe a Startup)
  • Messaging – Quick, go to five startup sites and read their homepage or most recent press release. How clear is the message? How much jargon and corporate-speak is used? Overwhelmingly, startups struggle with clear messaging.
  • Metrics – Typically, too many numbers are tracked making the important metrics less meaningful and rendering the other metrics more likely to be glossed over (see Metrics Tracking Based on Startup Scale)
  • User Experience – Often, the user experience is the most difficult to make simple and still good. Making a product intuitively obvious to the casual user is more art than science, and few people understand it.

Delivering simplicity that is also high quality throughout a startup is hard. Very hard. The best entrepreneurs follow the idea of Occam’s Razor: “simpler explanations are, other things being equal, generally better than more complex ones.”

What else? What are some other areas that startups have difficulty delivering simple but good?

3 thoughts on “Simple is Difficult for Entrepreneurs

  1. Thanks for the post, and pointing out how some complexities exist in many companies. Those are spot on with so many sites I see these days where after 10 minutes of clicking around and reading, I still don’t get it. I think a good tool is using something like Twitter in that if company reps (Founders, Execs, Employees, just general speakers) should write out their entire message, and then whittle it down to fit into a few simple words.

    Charlie Goetz from Emory (the Entrepreneurship professor) has advised listeners to describe their companies in 15 words or less. I appreciate that.

    User experience, to me, is the hardest to simplify. That’s why in many ways, I feel that Design is one of the greatest tools a startup has to differentiate and acquire customers. I wonder what people’s thoughts are on my recent article:

    Wanted to share this last bit from Richard Branson: “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple.” Sage advice, Richard…

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