I ❤️ “Boring” Companies

One piece of common startup advice is that you have to build a product, platform or service 10x better than the competition to win.

You really need to innovate at 1) a rapid pace and 2) an order of magnitude higher than what’s out there to build a successful business.

You need to think and act like Elon Musk. Or Travis Kalanick. Or Peter Thiel.Work 23.5 hours a day. Turn an industry once dominated by people into one that will soon be dominated by robots. Or self driving cars. Or specs.

You know the kind of companies that don’t make the headlines nearly as often as they should? Companies that solve what most people consider “boring” problems.

They include great companies like Gusto for HR. HelloSign for electronic signatures. Trello for project management. Invision for design feedback.Betterteam for finding and hiring talent. And BigCommerce (which I co-founded in 2009) for selling online.

The founders of these companies are damn smart. But at the end of the day, they’re solving what most people would call “boring” problems.

They help companies pay their employees. Or manage tasks and projects. Or sell stuff online. Or create and post job ads. Stuff that almost every single business in the world needs to do.

To me, these companies are anything BUT boring. They provide the critical software, tools and platforms that allow millions of businesses to operate and thrive every single day.

And with enough patience, continual learning, a killer team and good execution, the founders of “boring” companies do incredibly well.

They just don’t get as much media attention as the founders running “sexy” companies, because let’s be honest — we all want to read about self-driving cars and chat bots, but very few of us get excited by new features in business software.

I personally LOVE starting, advising and investing in “boring” companies.Why? Because:

  • They usually play in HUGE markets
  • They usually have the edge over the incumbents — and the incumbents usually dismiss them until they it’s too late to compete
  • They always solve a huge pain point for their customers
  • They usually innovate via design, pricing or distribution
  • They usually don’t cost that much to start
  • They don’t have to educate the market about their product, which is expensive and time consuming to do

Over the years I’ve beaten myself up multiple times because I thought I should be more like the Elon Musks, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of the world.

“Think 10000000x bigger”

“Hire 100000000x faster”

“Raise 1000000x more money”

But then I realized these founders are anomalies. The exception, not the rule. 1 in 50,000,000. And I was OK knowing I wasn’t going to be the next Elon, Bill or Steve.

They’ve each solved incredibly complex problems with insane budgets and incredible amounts of innovation and foresight with timelines that span multiple decades.

Me? I solve “boring” problems for small businesses. Just like the amazing founders of Gusto, HelloSign, Trello, Invision and Betterteam.

And I’m completely OK with that, because it’s what I love to do. And in my view, it’s one of the most important jobs you can take on — designing the software and systems that power thousands or millions of businesses.

I’ve done it for the last 15 years and no doubt I’ll do it for the next 15 years too. In summary, don’t let all the talk around innovation distract you from starting or growing your “boring” company that solves a real problem for your customers.

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About Mitchell Harper

Mitch is a 7x company founder, advisor and investor. He is best known as the co-founder of BigCommerce. His companies have generated over $200,000,000 in total revenue and he is currently building an online education company and a SaaS company.

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