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- Sunday Deep Dive: 10 principles for building a great product
Sunday Deep Dive: 10 principles for building a great product
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Today’s deep dive discusses 10 principles for building a great product from:
Rick Rubin (founder of Def Jam)
Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Meta & Facebook)
Elon Musk (founder of Tesla, SpacEx, and more)
Daniel Ek (founder of Spotify)
Sam Altman (founder of OpenAI)
Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon & Blue Origin)
Tony Fadell (founder of Nest & co-creator of the iPod & iPhone)
David Sacks (founder of Yammer and former Head of Product at PayPal)
Brian Chesky (founder of Airbnb)
Jony Ive (designer of the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and MacBook)
#1 Rick Rubin: Create something for yourself
Last month, Elon Musk tweeted that Rick Rubin’s philosophy of creating something truly for yourself is how Tesla creates products.
Rick elaborates on this philosophy in the clip below:
“My only goal is to make something that I like… I know what I like. If I don’t like it, I keep working, and eventually we get to a place where we like it.”
Interestingly, he doesn’t consider the audience at all:
“The audience comes last… I’m not making it for them. I’m making it for me. And it turns out that when you make something truly for yourself, you’re doing the best thing you possibly can for the audience.”
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt argues a similar point:
"If you think about the greatest products, they've almost always been designed for the benefit of the people who are actually building them.”
Uber started out as a private timeshare limousine service for Garrett Camp and his friends. Microsoft started when Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote a Basic interpreter for the Altair so they didn’t have to write machine language to program it. Drew Houston built Dropbox to make his files live online after forgetting his USB stick. Larry Page and Sergey Brin built Google for Stanford—and particularly for themselves—with the first server in Larry’s dorm room.
#2 Mark Zuckerberg: You can’t 80/20 everything
When Facebook first launched, a user’s profile included things like the dorm they lived in and the courses they were taking.
In the clip below, Paul Graham asks Mark if he thinks Facebook would’ve worked without these features.
“I remember this early debate that Dustin [Moskovitz] and I had where we had to do some manual work for every school that we released Facebook at. To do that, we went through and parsed the course catalogs at the schools to make sure that the data was clean.”
In the debate, Dustin argued that it would be easier to launch new schools if they didn’t parse these catalogs.
“We just had this really long debate about what quality meant for us and the community that we wanted to establish and the culture. In retrospect, maybe it wouldn’t have made a huge difference in how things played out. But it definitely set this tone where there’s a lot of clean data on Facebook, you can rely on it, it feels like a college-specific thing—which was valuable early on for setting the culture.”
Mark then offers the following advice to the YC Startup School audience:
“In the projects you work on, you will have a lot of similar questions. There’s the famous 80/20 rule where you get 80% of the benefit by doing 20% of the work, but you can’t just 80/20 everything. There have to be certain things that you are just the best at and that you go way further than anyone else on to establish this quality bar and have your product be the best thing that’s out there.”
#3 Elon Musk: Actively seek out negative feedback
In the clip below, Elon gives the following product advice to aspiring entrepreneurs:
“I think it’s very important to actively seek out and listen very carefully to negative feedback. This is something people tend to avoid because it’s painful. But I think this is a very common mistake.”
When friends use his product, Elon will say:
“Don’t tell me what you like. Tell me what you don’t like.”
As he explains:
“Otherwise your friend will not tell you what they don’t like… Most of your friends don’t want to offend you, so you really need to coax negative feedback… People should view positive feedback like water off a duck’s back—really underweight that and overweight negative feedback.”
#4 Daniel Ek: Imagine the perfect solution and then ratchet down
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