You need to shape the envelope of possibility

Most entrepreneurs focus on expanding the envelope of possibility.  They love to tell me about potential applications of their technology and new markets that could use it.  Their goal is to expand the envelope of possibility.

Expanding the envelope is critical.  Startups begin with nothing; only by expanding the envelope of possibility can they succeed.

But at the same time, expanding the envelope is insufficient.  You also need to shrink that envelope.

A startup in a garage is better off have 1-2 markets than 10-20 markets.  You simply don’t have the resources or mental bandwidth to do so many things.

One of my startups came to me recently to ask my advice.  This startup had been approached by potential customers in a new market.  The entrepreneur was excited about expanding the envelope.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” I said, “But don’t we already have a market where we have traction, a clear revenue model, and mess of customers in the pipeline?   New markets are great, but later.  Right now, let’s take advantage of the market we already have!”

Possibility is wonderful, but to reduce it to reality, you need to contract the envelope and focus your efforts.  You need to shape the envelope of possibility.

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