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It’s a Marathon Sprint

by: | January 26, 2017

You’ve all heard this before. “Take your time, save your energy, it’s a marathon—not a sprint.”

I guess I just don’t agree.

While making it to the finish line is important, keep in mind that in a race, only 2 or 3 competitors get to grace the podium with their presence. What’s the point in running a super stressful marathon if the podium only holds the top performers, and you’re one of the other guys… roadkill.

I want to be on the podium.

One of the most common examples of the marathon sprint dilemma happens when startups are deciding whether or not to go global. Almost every startup sector I’ve looked at is a global game, with room for 2 or 3 in the end game. So it’s rarely a question of if, but when.  

“You have to improve the experience by adding this tool... or this button. Once the experience is amazing in Canada, then we’ll be ready to take this baby global.”

 

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WRONG. FAIL.  

Just ask all the regional ebook players. Oh wait, they’re all dead.  

I remember this exact moment at Kobo as clear as day. It was painfully obvious, but so was the desire to make our product awesome in Canada first. So it was a debate. The calculation was a matter of working backwards from when I believed the medals would be awarded. If we didn’t get to the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Brazil, the G20… it would be too expensive, and too difficult later. And the best partners (distribution) and customers (highest life-time value) would be gone. No podium.  

What mattered was the magic of finding a book, downloading it in seconds, and reading it. All the rest was irrelevant. Our conversion rates and churn rates showed that going global—even with the risks—was a trade-off worth making. So we took the leap.

Time to market became a critical factor for us in expansion, not only for the reasons above, but (surprise!) because we took on the thought leadership mantle, which only accelerated us and gave us the fuel to go longer.

Speeding things up helped us get to the podium. And stay there.

It’s not a marathon. But it’s not just a sprint either.

It’s a marathon sprint.

 

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