Yesterday we met with a very talented entrepreneur who said this:
"It’s tough to compete with simple."
He was talking about their product and how hard they’re working to make some basic human needs & expressions as simple as possible — and how if you can crack that nut, it’s very, very hard for anyone else to compete.
This idea, and how he expressed it, has been racing around my head since then — it is itself such a simple & profound statement, and like the idea it’s expressing, it hides a really deep and mercurial complexity beneath the surface.
The thing is, getting to simple is not simple. It’s hard. Knowing how to simplify — and, actually, crucially, what to simplify is a hard, hard problem. Simple actions that nobody does don’t matter. Hard actions that everyone wants to do are good, but vulnerable to simple solutions.
Apple cut through a bunch of the complex in rethinking phones and tablets. Tumblr cut straight to simple beautifully with posting, liking & reblogging. Instagram makes it simple & quick to share a moment with several networks. Dropbox cuts out all the complexity and just makes everything work, simply — you’ve got your stuff and you can share it, and it all just works like you think it should.
Simple is incredibly powerful, and super, super sticky because it can quickly get woven into the lives of many people.
It’s tough to figure out what those needs are, of course — superior need finding has always been the essence of building great products. And it’s devilishly tough to build complex systems like software that actually show as simple interactions.
But once you’ve got it, tough to beat. Deceptively hard to copy authentically. Simple rules, but it’s so, so hard to get there.
What a great idea and great framing: it’s tough to compete with simple. Profound, and important.