The Value of Going Deep instead of Wide

The Value of Going Deep instead of Wide

One of the advantages of focusing on focus is the ability to go "deep" instead of "wide" on what a company's actual business is.

A fantastic example is Dropbox. They do one thing, and they do it with such an intense focus that I continue to be amazed by the level of innovation they achieve.

It seems like every day, their entire team is asking itself "what can we do to go deeper on our main objective?" And their main objective is to acquire as many users as possible, and then get them to store as much of their content on Dropbox as possible. Simple.

They do this so incredibly well, and their valuation is north of $4 billion, just for doing that one thing better than anyone else on the planet, with an incredible depth of focus.

Companies always have a tendency to think they need to go wide. More features, more products, more breadth.

But purposefully narrowing focus allows a company to go deep and just absolutely dominate a space. And it shows up in beautiful ways, especially from a product perspective. More features is OK, but each feature needs to build towards the main vision for this to work. Making a great product is like rolling a snowball down a mountain. At the top, it seems insignificant. But by the time it's rolling towards the bottom, it's unstoppable.

Here are a few examples of how Dropbox goes deep:

I took a screenshot on my computer (as I do many times a day, using a service called CloudApp) and look at what happened:

Dropbox popped up and asked me if I wanted to upload that screenshot to its service. I hadn't done anything differently -- that was just an innovation they figured out because they knew that it was consistent with their goal of getting as much of my content on their servers as possible. It's very likely that there weren't any big, long meetings to decide to create that feature. It's just something that was an obvious part of the goal of the company. So someone (probably a product manager) just did it. S/he made the decision to prioritize that feature because it achieved their narrow (but deep) goal very effectively.

A few days later, I connected my iPhone to my laptop, and look what popped up:

Yep, an offer from dropbox to "keep my photos safe with Dropbox." Genius. Talk about a way to fill up a Dropbox account -- and who doesn't want to back up their photos for safe keeping?!

Dropbox also put the time into creating a flexible architecture that allows their user acquisition team to play around with different models of getting bonus space to users when they take various actions. For example, users can get 250MB more space by completing 7 steps -- one of which is installing the Dropbox mobile app. Genius.

These are obvious things, but Dropbox has been world-class about executing on them? Why? Because they gave themselves the space & focus to do one thing really well, and therefore go really deep. It's a great lesson for any entrepreneur.