Beyond Execution: What’s The New Mantra for Startup Success

Vasil Nedelchev
2 min readNov 7, 2023

Build a great product.
Solve a real painful problem.
Make it easy to use.

That’s the startup mantra for winning markets and making big money in tech. Laser focus on the product, and the rest will take care of itself. Unfortunately, in the past few years, this type of approach has led to some undesirable results.

Great product in search of a problem

And a lot of “the same but better” products. Building a great product used to be enough. That time is past now.

Do you remember these three?

• Vine: A short-form video app
• Google Wave: A real-time collaborative platform
• Firefly: Automatically organizes your photos, videos, and music

I’m sure you don’t. They didn’t make it. They all have well-known alternatives these days that basically do the same thing.

So what’s the difference?

Maybe it’s marketing and sales.

Then the other day, I was listening to Christopher Lochhead (the category design guy) on a podcast, and he pointed out Threads by Meta. They had the biggest possible distribution channel and a billion users ready to go. And what happened? People checked it out but didn’t stay.

What is it?

It’s not a great product or sales and marketing.

It seems to me it’s all about brand strategy and market positioning. That is the next big lever for creating a successful product company.

And I know what some will say: ideas are garbage, execution is king. I used to believe that.

Now when I see how execution in the software world gets commoditized with:

• Organic marketing levelling the playing field
• The market reaching maturity
• Rise of no-code and AI

I’m willing to question it.

Do you remember this saying, “One person’s garbage is someone else’s treasure.” I feel like the next decade’s execution and ideas will trade places again. Strategic branding and positioning will play a key role in creating the next startup unicorns.

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Vasil Nedelchev

Product Designer. Writing about design beyond your day job. Get all my writing at designsolo.co