Eight years ago, I wrote what continues to be one of my best-read blog posts, entitled “Reconciling Vision and Focus.”
The question it sought to answer is one that still resonates with founders today:
Which is more important for your startup–a big vision or a specific focus?
It’s a question that consistently comes up in my conversations with entrepreneurs both within the Techstars universe and those I meet via my “Office Hours” conversations.
What I wrote in 2014 could have been written today:
Companies have mentors or advisors telling them they need a big, bold vision to draw others to the company, attract investors and be viewed as thought leaders.
At the same time, they are also being told they need to focus–they need to do something very specific and really build up a dominant market share with good revenue in a specific area.
Many view this as conflicting advice. It causes them to thrash about, between big vision and specific focus. In reality, it’s not conflicting at all.
This played out in a conversation with a recent founder who had a big vision to expand his company beyond his current focus.
At the same time, his company’s name actually highlighted the area of current focus, not the broader vision, something I cautioned him could be seen as a “market limiter.”
By all means, start your company by focusing in an area that can best validate your capabilities and potential. Chances are, this will be an area you’re passionate about or committed to based on personal experience. Hopefully, it will also help you attract investors you love who understand and connect with your current focus.
But always keep working toward—and articulating—your broader vision.
As I wrote in 2014:
Having a long term vision and having focus early on are completely compatible ideas. The key here is that your focus should show how you’re executing along the path to fulfilling your vision. Recognize that over the long term, your company has a trajectory with a start point and a theoretical envisioned endpoint where you change the world. Focus on one concrete step that lies on the path of that long term vision. You need both your vision and a focus that is in line with that vision….
Vision or focus? There’s no need to choose one or the other. Instead, choose both–talk about your vision while making progress with your focus. Just like with your eyesight, vision is of no use without focus.
When it comes to vision or focus, the answer, for most investors, will always be “both.” Start with your vision, then tell me about your focus.
Pitching both your vision and your focus is the best way to sell both your ability to execute and the scale of your opportunity… it can help you attract investors you love… get them on board… make progress… and repeat.
Feel free to tell me what you think about reconciling vision and focus in the comments!