MSPW – Make Something People Want

I’ve been thinking a lot about the YCombinator mantra: Make Something People Want. The idea is that startups should focus first on creating a compelling product, since that’s the hard part, and then on how it will monetize. If you build something people want, making money from it will eventually be easy.

I think the reason this mantra appeals to me so much is that my current employer (Pixar) is all about MSPW. What makes our films successful is that we make stories we want to watch. We don’t think too much about demographics or about what is popular – instead we try to make films that have great stories and expect the box office to follow. Instead of focusing on the kinds of films that will make money, we focus on the kinds of stories that are compelling. Then, we focus on great execution: everyone works towards the single goal of making the best film possible.

Apple does it too (notice a pattern?), but they’ve learned another important lesson: customers will pay (absurd) premiums for things they want to use. Marketing plays an important role, but you have to be marketing a compelling product, not just throwing lipstick on a pig.

Startups, like films, will often fail even if they have great stories and great execution. But, as people have more choice about what software they use and what films they watch, the ones that are sold solely through superb marketing will fail at accelerated rates.

People often ask what the Pixar formula for box office success is, and I think the answer is simple. We MSPW.


7 comments so far

  1. MSPW Trumps Technique on

    […] check out this post on startups and animation I saw at News.YC. What can I say, a post about startups and Pixar, right […]

  2. Tony Wright on

    Hear hear.

    On CenterNetworks the other day, the author was asking his readers why a lot of web 2.0 companies fail to break into the mainstream. My (fairly instant response) was that most of these companies simply aren’t solving a problem that the mainstream has.

    So, if you truly want to be the “next big thing”, make something EVERYONE wants. Otherwise, build your business such that you can thrive with niche-level revenues.

  3. […] Technomagic tells you why you should make something people want. […]

  4. geniEyclo on

    So, are you in this spring’s YCombinator?
    A friend of mine went to the meeting in
    Boston and was chosen as one of the 20.

  5. […] Looking back, now I know what she meant. She was referring to collaboration. She was referring to Make Something People Want. Besides, life is easier and more exciting when you work smart, not […]

  6. John Lee on

    “MSPW – Make Something People Want”
    It goes along with “Customer is Always RIGHT”
    or somethign like that.

    Well, when you do something the people wants, guaranteed it’ll be a hit.

  7. […] distract you from addressing the real needs of your customers. If you don’t focus on making something people want, it doesn’t matter how scalable your database is, because you won’t have any customers […]

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