#28 — Category

There’s a lot of talk about category creation in startups.

VCs love it because it fits their model - high risk, high reward. Founders love it because they get to make the rules for their game. CFOs love it because they get unreal pricing power.

Working at Drift I’ve seen it work with “Conversational Marketing.” A few founders have asked me about it.

I won’t claim to be an expert, but I start with two questions:

1.) Is the thing you do actually a new category?

70% of the SaaS Unicorns did NOT create categories. They found a 2nd wave or 3rd wave solution to a big problem. Zoom is worth over $100B and didn’t create a category. If you aren’t really, truly, actually a new category, don’t fight nature.

2.) Does the category creation activity fit with your personal values and style?

As the founder, you probably can’t delegate all of it. You better be ready to write the book, run the conference, and spend a few years convincing analysts. If you are more of a bottom-up thinker & operator, you might find this “campaign” painful. If it’s not your kind of thing, don’t fight nature.

What’s your take?

Built in Seattle Podcast


Maria Colacurcio (CEO at Syndio, Co-Founder of Smartsheet) talks about category creation, leadership lessons from parenting, skills over experience, and the power of focus.

On what you do vs how you do it:

“You win or lose at work based on the, how not based on the wet, it's how you work, how you interact, how you lead, how you approach people, how you garner some support for an idea.”

On finding focus in the busy-ness:

“You have to start reducing the number of things you're delivering to produce things that actually are effective. And the way to do that is to figure out what am I doing to achieve? What am I trying to achieve with all this busywork, with all this noise, with all this productivity, what am I trying to actually accomplish?”