Product Person and Business Person Entrepreneurs

Highest order pattern as observed by their passion spark

When I first raised this question with one of our CXOs, their immediate response included the familiar names of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Upon closely observing the unique passions that drive various entrepreneurial styles, I find the Highest Order Pattern (HOP) of how entrepreneurs make their business decisions to be intriguing. Specifically, these notable figures perfectly align with what I perceive as a broad classification of entrepreneurs.

Jobs and the iphone

Product Person Entrepreneur

Imagine an entrepreneur who obsesses over the perfect shade of blue for a new gadget. That's the essence of a product person entrepreneur. Their HOP lies in crafting exceptional products. Every detail, every user interaction, becomes a personal crusade. They prioritize innovative design, intuitive functionality, and solving problems in groundbreaking ways.

Jobs maintained a continuous legacy until his final days, with people consistently praising the products Apple created. These products consistently exuded sophistication and attention to detail, instilling in people the belief that they truly worked as intended.

Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are among those very successful product person entrepreneurs.

Business Person Entrepreneur

Even up to its final moments, Internet Explorer faced continuous criticism from the world. However, it endured for years as a dominant force in browsing, contributing significantly to Microsoft's business endeavors. If we consider the origins of the first version of Microsoft Windows, we see a strong entrepreneurial instinct for turning opportunities into profitable ventures.

From a young age, Bill Gates had built his interest in computers, and during his early careers he had collaborated with Paul Allen and co-created a widely used version of BASIC for the Altair 8800 computer, which indeed served as a pivotal early product for Microsoft. However, as Microsoft grew, Gates' focus shifted towards business strategy and management. He wasn't known for deep technical expertise in later years. Some argue that Gates' early programming skills were impressive, while others suggest they weren't exceptional compared to other engineers of the time. Nonetheless, he founded the largest company of his era.

Jeff Bezos (Amazon) who Revolutionized online retail through a relentless focus on customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and constant innovation in logistics and technology is also another business person entrepreneur.

Product Person EntrepreneurBusiness Person Entrepreneur
Fascinated by the concept of the potential greatness of a product.Intrigued by the idea of what a business something can be
Build first, sell as builtSell first, build as promised

Why does this matter ?

Understanding your entrepreneurial type isn't just about labels. It ignites curiosity about your strengths and weaknesses, helps you identify complementary skills for a well-rounded team, and ultimately strengthens your chances of building a successful and scalable business.

The magic happens when these two entrepreneurial types collaborate. Their complementary skillsets - product vision and business strategy - create a powerful foundation for building remarkable businesses. Similarly, if you, as a product-focused entrepreneur, value a team member who excels in business development, or vice versa, your venture has a greater chance of flourishing. In both scenarios, recognizing and leveraging these complementary skillsets is crucial for success.

But when do they fail ?

Even the most well-intentioned entrepreneur can stumble. Product-focused entrepreneurs can become trapped in a perfectionist cycle, endlessly refining features and missing crucial market windows. Take Amazon's "Fire Phone" for instance - technologically advanced but ultimately impractical and unsuccessful.

Business-minded entrepreneurs, on the other hand, can get fixated on projections and promises, neglecting the core quality of the product itself. Theranos, a company that promised revolutionary blood testing technology, serves as a cautionary tale. Their focus on profit and market hype overshadowed developing a functional product. This vulnerability was recently exemplified by the downfall of Byju's, a once-celebrated Indian education company.

Furthermore, I'd like to highlight a common tendency among entrepreneurs known as "Shiny Object Syndrome." This syndrome describes the feeling of missing out when something seemingly successful appears in the market, even if its success wasn't instantaneous. However, the relentless effort poured into existing projects often goes unnoticed. Despite this, the mere allure of these "shiny objects" continues to spark interest, potentially leading to a habit of starting new ventures without completing existing ones.

Both the product-focused and business-oriented entrepreneur can succumb to this syndrome. Nowadays, everyone seems to be diving into AI. During the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone was manufacturing masks, and today, it feels like everyone is launching clothing brands on social media.

  • Quibi (2020-2021): This short-form video platform launched with a bang, backed by Hollywood heavyweights and a "bite-sized content" promise. However, it failed to differentiate itself from existing giants like YouTube and TikTok. Focusing on a niche format without a strong user acquisition strategy led to a quick demise.

  • Kodak Disc Camera (1996): As digital photography emerged, Kodak, a leader in film photography, saw the "shiny object" but hesitated to fully embrace it. They clung to their core business, eventually missing the digital revolution and filing for bankruptcy in 2012.

  • Google+ (2011-2019): Google aimed to compete with Facebook with a social network of its own. However, Google+ lacked a clear niche and never truly captured user attention. Their focus on a crowded market distracted them from further developing other successful products.

  • Amazon Fire Phone (2014-2015): Amazon, a leader in e-commerce, saw the smartphone market as a "shiny object." The Fire Phone offered unique features but lacked a user-friendly experience and struggled to compete with established players like Apple and Samsung.

  • Theranos (2003-2018): This company promised revolutionary blood testing with minimal blood draw. However, their technology was flawed, and the focus on hype and market dominance overshadowed developing a functional product. Theranos became a cautionary tale of prioritizing hype over genuine innovation.

Having identified myself as a product person entrepreneur, I thrive on crafting exceptional products. My ideal partnership involves collaborating with someone who excels in business development, allowing me to fully focus on product vision and innovation. Alternatively, I envision taking my creations to market myself and then transitioning to develop new ventures. This self-awareness regarding my entrepreneurial style – as a product person – simplifies decision-making and streamlines my creative process.