It been a while. I just read a couple of posts on the relative importance of Team, Product and Market that motivated me to write.

Here are the post. The first is from Marc Andreson (Netscape fame) and the second is in response to Marc by Paul Buchheit (Gmail fame). I think both are worth reading.

If I read Marc right he states that the market wins and the product-market fit defines success.

Marc refers to Andy’s (Benchmark) quote

Andy puts it this way:

When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins.
When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins.
When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.

Paul reiterated this but claimed that if your product is conducive to fast frequent iteration (web products) a good market will draw out the right product.

Paul says…

For web based products at least, there’s another very powerful technique: release early and iterate. The sooner you can start testing your ideas, the sooner you can start fixing them.

I think they both have good points however I would frame it differently.

When I look at a startup for Tandem Entrepreneurs, I look at the market as a target, the bigger the market the higher the probability of hitting the target. And I look at the team as the archer, the better the archer the more likely that they will hit the target. The product at the start should be at best treated as a guess of where you should aim.

Now having said this I would caveat it with the fact that defining a large market is easy. Defining the right market is an art and it is hard but critical.

The market becomes the focus of the startup and any startup without a focus is hard to execute. So I agree with Marc that the market is very important but it need not be huge. It needs to be big enough and clearly defined.

Once the market is defined and the team understands that the market and not the product is the focus; then begins the job of tuning the product-market fit whiich can be done well by releasing early and often (if your product and market are conducive to this) as Paul suggests.

A thoughtful definition of the market and a good team are critical to success. But I would contend that if you have a good team that understands the importance of the market, they will in the right environment, be able to find a good market – there is no dearth of opportunity.

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