Willing to be misunderstood

Jeff Bezos appeared on Charlie rose two weeks ago and spoke about Amazon’s history, future and best of all, its culture.

In the interview, Bezos discussed Amazon’s core values:

  1. We are willing to be misunderstood
  2. We are obsessed with customers, not competitors.
  3. We are long term thinkers

While all of them are critical to Amazon’s success, my favorite is the first because it combines three critical concepts for startups.

First, it requires knowing a secret, in the Peter Thiel sense of the word, seeing something in the market that very few others understand.

Second, it requires systems thinking, understanding where a new product fits into the market place and how to leverage a company’s assets to best deliver the product to customers.

Third, it requires conviction, belief in the product and market even when others are deriding the notion and investors are pushing the company to achieve quarterly targets. This is the willingness to be misunderstood.

Today, it’s not technology that creates barriers to entry in a market. Amazon Web Services has radically reduced the costs of deploying software. Instead, culture, process and institutional knowledge create the moats. Culture attracts talent. Process builds expertise, the institutional knowledge that allows a company to serve a customer best.

When you think about your startup, make sure you have all three ingredients: a secret, a strong go-to-market strategy and the willingness/conviction to be misunderstood. These are the foundations of great companies.

Dec 12, 2012

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