Play Bigger


Category Kings create new categories or entirely new ways of doing things. They capture the lion’s share of the value created and tend to dominate their market. This book discusses how to think about and create category kings, creating something that’s different, not better.

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Key Takeaways

  1. Category kings help illuminate a big problem we often didn’t know we had. They make what we did before feel dumb, outdated, klunky.
    1. Uber showed us a better way to get from A to B
  2. Category design is the process and mindset of aiming to build a category king. It impacts every function within a company and increases your odds of surviving and thriving
  3. Disruption is a byproduct, not a goal. Creation is the goal
  4. First mover advantage is not what you should be seeking. You should seek to become category king
  5. Your job as founder of a category king is to change how people think. If you do that they’ll change their buying behavior and think of you as king
  6. Once the category is defined and the problem is understood. The market will pull out the solution. In a well honed category design strategy, the company designs the category, evangelizes the problem, offers the solution, and is crowned king
  7. You need to balance category design with company design with product design.
  8. FroTos – You need to guide people from (what currently sucks) to (a better world)
  9. First step is to define the problem and make people aware of it. Maybe there is an established player that you can position yourself against. Seibel and Salesforce for example. Once people can see the problem, they can’t unsee it. The company that defines the space is the best position to solve the problem and own the category
  10. Play Bigger Playbook
    1. Vision/Mission – What was the original market or tech insight that lead you to create this company?
    2. Customers – who do you envision buying this product or service and who will use it
    3. Problem Statement – whats’ the problem you think you can solve for your potential customers
    4. Use cases – what are the specific ways people will use this product or service to solve their problem
    5. Product Statement – give a detailed explanation – of the tech behind the solution. What does it do now and what else is it capable of doing
    6. Ecosystem – who are the other companies who are involved in creating additional value? Where are the control points where other companies have leverage
    7. Competition – Who else is trying to solve this problem? If nobody is right now, who might jump in once you identify it?
    8. Business model – how will your product or service change business for your customers? Increase ROI, reduce costs, allow them to do something they couldn’t ‘do before?
    9. Sales and Go to Market – how will product make its way to the market (sales force, distribution partners, etc), how will users find out about it (app stores, search, viral adoption, growth hacking, advertising, PR)
    10. Organization – how is the company organized? who are the major influencers? what kind of culture will work? how are decisions made?
    11. Funding strategy – what’s the next funding event? how much runway does the company have and how much funding is in place to execute against the category strategy?
  11. Category name should speak to the problem being solved and eventually become a line item on people’s budgets (attention or monetary)
    1. A consumer category name has to be concise and descriptive – social network, ride-sharing
  12. Think of building category-product-market-timing-founder fit
  13. Once you define your category, it has to be part of everything. Company design, how you market, how you speak, it must guide all of your journeys
  14. Play Bigger Guide
    1. Who is going to help define the category internally? – it’s usually helpful to have an external perspective
    2. Fact finding – have this person interview every senior person in the company and do research
      1. vision/mission, customers, etc (see list just above)
    3. Workshop – with leadership team to share learnings and get buy in
      1. Who are the customers
  15. Category package
    1. Category landscape – what the category looks like and where you fit
    2. Category ecosystem – every stakeholder that plugs into the category
    3. FroTo – what customers are moving from and to
    4. Final category name and description
    5. Why the category should exist
    6. Early draft of category design game plan
  16. There are two main types of insights – market insight and tech insight
    1. Market insight – something is missing and you’re the one to fill it. Knowledge + Serendipity
    2. Tech insight – some inflection in today’s tech that allows something new / better
  17. POV
    1. You need a powerful POV – a story about your category that emotionally grabs people, makes them see the problem and give them the “aha” moment where you then solve that pain. Why you’re different and the difference between what is and what could be
    2. The POV guides strategy and helps streamline decision making
    3. All pieces of category design and POV has to be written down. Anyone who disagrees at the end must be removed
    4. A clear and compelling POV will help self select for investors, employees and customers, and will align employees, product development, and brand
    5. Think movie trailer. There’s emotional attachment and desire for what you’re doing and a better world they could be part of
    6. POV Process
      1. Who? An outsider
      2. Fact finding research. How company and product is different.
      3. How it will create the product or service that solves problem and gets to different.
      4. How will the world be different once built.
      5. What’s the nature of the company – what image do you want (apple is sophisticated and uncompromising)
      6. State the problem.
      7. Craft the story
      8. Lay out problem and ramifications
      9. Describe a vision for the category
      10. Once finalized, distribute and evangelize
    7. Lightning Strike
      1. 3-6 months after the POV is approved, the company plans an all out event to share their vision with the world and make the problem and category feel real and inevitable
      2. Lightning strike has a category blueprint, product taxonomy, use cases, category ecosystem
      3. You want to elicit the thought in a customer that “this company understands the problem better than anyone and just have the solution”
      4. Sketch out a blueprint for how to build
      5. Paint a picture of potential outcomes
    8. The category kings continuously fuel their flywheel and expand their market share and TAM

What I got out of it

  1. An early focus on creating a category seems a worthwhile investment. It streamlines decision making, attracts the right investors / employees / customers / etc., and aligns people internally. The idea of thinking of company creation on three axes was also helpful: category design, company design, product design

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