This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Kevin Maney of Category Design Advisors joins Erik and Tim to discuss how the category design process can help businesses win new markets and gain economic advantages.
The category design process offers companies the framework to take a business to another level. Kevin says, “…if you are a founder of a company, why would you not want to try to improve your odds of being the one that ends up winning that category and taking all the economics? Because otherwise, you're just scraping for market share in somebody else's category. So, then if that's the beginning of your thinking, okay, yes, of course. If I'm running a company and I want to really make something of this company, then that means the mindset should be, I should want to be a category leader. Then how do you reverse engineer how to become that or how to at least improve your odds of becoming that?”
Kevin continues, “If you are one of those founders, then this way of thinking, of thinking outside in, what is the problem to be solved? What does that category look like? What are the rules that should be around it? What does a solution look like? And define that first, and then take it inside and say, now we're going to build a company that satisfies that category. That becomes a very interesting and novel way to think about what you're creating as a company.”
Winning a new market not only offers companies the satisfaction of solving problems in that particular market but also brings financial rewards. Kevin explains, “But the nature of the beast in digital markets is that if you win the category, if you become that category winner, as we define it in the book, you are a virtual monopoly because you are taking away 75, 80% of the market share of that particular category.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about the benefits of using the category design process.
About the Guest:
Kevin Maney is a founding partner of Category Design Advisors (CDA), a bestselling author, an award-winning columnist, and a TV commentator.
Kevin is co-author of the book Play Bigger, which has sold more than 100,000 copies globally and created a category design movement among entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and CEOs. Using the category design process Kevin co-created, CDA has helped more than 50 companies discover, define and get on track to dominate new markets.
Kevin has been writing about technology for 30 years and has interviewed most of the tech pioneers you can name. He wrote a column for Newsweek and has been a contributor to Fortune, The Atlantic, Wired, and ABC News. He was a contributing editor at Conde Nast Portfolio and a columnist and editor at USA Today. His book The Maverick and His Machine is considered the de facto history of IBM.
He’s appeared frequently on television and radio, including CNN, CBS Sunday Morning, and NPR.
He also writes music for and plays in a New York band, Total Blam Blam.
Tim Curtis: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to this week's edition of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne.
Erik Martinez: And I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.
Tim Curtis: With us today is Kevin Maney, a journalist who's been covering Tech and Society for more than 30 years. He's also the author of Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets.
Kevin is a partner at Category Design Advisors where Kevin and his team guides leadership teams to help them define, develop, and ultimately dominate a new category of business. So, we're glad to have you. Welcome on the show.
Kevin Maney: Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.
Tim Curtis: You bet. Why don't you give us a little bit [00:01:00] of a background or brief synopsis so that the listeners kind of understand a little bit about your journey and what you do at Category Design Advisors?
Kevin Maney: Okay. Yeah. Well, thanks. I guess my journey's a bit of an odd one. Probably only makes sense in retrospect. You know, I started out as a journalist and that's what I wanted to do in life. Just happened to start out as a journalist in my hometown of Binghamton, New York, which is where IBM originally grew up and was a giant industry there to cover. That's how he started covering technology, and that just translated into writing for all sorts of publications, probably most business publications or technology publications you could name. Over the years it also turned into writing books.
In 2016, the book we're referencing here, Play Bigger came out, which I wrote with three other guys, all Silicon Valley veterans. So, the book came out in 2016, and in fact, by the time the book came out, cause you know, there's this lag of like six to nine months by the time you finish a book to the time it gets published, I had already started another book. I mean, I figured my path is I'm a writer, this is what I do.
Play Bigger came out [00:02:00] and proposed this idea, this methodology of category design and the thing has been a life changer. The book has sold incredibly well all over the world, and then it led to CEOs and venture capitalists and all these people calling us up and saying, Hey, can you come help do what you wrote about it in the book?
So, that turned into the firm that I co-founded Category Design Advisors, and now much of my life is spent actually doing that. I still write books. I still love to do that, but I have worked now probably with my partners 40, 45 different companies, range from very, very early-stage startups to pre-IPO companies to one that was 60 years old and reinventing itself on this concept of category design. And it's been a whole left turn in my career that's been truly satisfying and fun.
Tim Curtis: There's two threads there within your story that kind of popped out to me. Number one is this concept of finding that groove came out unexpectedly. You know, it's one of those things that sort of took on a life of its own and created its own inertia [00:03:00] and off you go. The second thing, which is really interesting, is your journalist background. You'd be surprised, or maybe you wouldn't be surprised, how many times we meet entrepreneurs who have a journalist background. It's been a very interesting consistency, and so I'm just wondering kind of, you know, what that is there. But definitely I think the story in it itself of how you started and how it's kind of caught on, that's sort of the stuff that Hollywood movies are done on. So, that's incredibly cool that you've been able to have that sort of a journey that you didn't anticipate.
Kevin Maney: Who gets to play me in the movie?
Tim Curtis: Yeah, exactly. We can go down to IMDB and start picking the players.
Erik Martinez: Who do you want to play you, Kevin?
Tim Curtis: Yeah, that's a better question.
Kevin Maney: Yeah. Yeah. I'll take Brad Pitt.
So actually, it's really interesting that you said that about journalists, that that's your observation, but I could tell you a couple of things about that, that I think are probably part of that whole thing. One of the key ways to get a company noticed or get people on board for what you're trying to do and all of that is great storytelling. Companies that can [00:04:00] tell a great story about who they are, why they exist, why you should care, they have a better chance of breaking through the noise that's out there. And that may be one factor.
The other thing I could tell you about my particular journey is that, so I, you know, ended up, getting into this business of running these workshops and processes with companies to go through this category design process. The skills are very similar because what it takes for me to do that is to interview people, listen, try to really understand what they're saying, even if it's not exactly what they're saying. Which is what good journalists do, and put it all together within the context of what's going on in the world and understanding what this particular company or technology means in the bigger picture. And being able to assemble all of that in a story that, that resonates and tells, both internally for the company, but externally, what this is all about. So, I'm doing a lot of the same things. I just getting paid a lot better for it.
Tim Curtis: There's nothing wrong with that.
Erik Martinez: Nothing wrong with that.[00:05:00]
Tim Curtis: Teach a course on that.
Erik Martinez: From the journalists I've met, I think one of the other key skill sets that you bring to the table is inherently curious in your researchers. You know how to bring lots of different pieces of information from all sorts of different sources and weave it into the story that you're creating. And that research skill, I think is a critical component, being able to understand business context and environment and history. And just reading a little bit of your book, I see that in the way you're writing and telling the story, even just at the very beginning of the book. So, I think that's a critical component of it.
Kevin Maney: I agree.
Erik Martinez: Moving into this realm of category design. What is it, and why should we care?
Kevin Maney: Yeah. Let me go back a little bit to my co-authors 'cause they were all former company founders, CEOs, investors, all of that. So, they had a lot of experience and they were already in the business of being startup advisors when we got together to write the book. So, they came into it with [00:06:00] some interesting observations. I had known these guys for quite a long time, but we had a dinner one night and they were laying out this concept or this idea, what got me interested and excited. They were pointing out there saying that, especially in any kind of digital market today, or any time in the last probably 20 years, they tend to mostly be a winner take all.
The reason is that because if something is digital, if it's software, if it's in the cloud, then everybody anywhere can move to and adopt whatever the leader is. There's no geographic boundaries. There's no distribution boundaries or anything like that. By the way, you know, if you go back and study categories throughout time most categories, especially global categories, tend to be dominated by one or two companies. Especially in these digital markets, it tends to be one company taking 75, 80% of the economics out of the category. Maybe there's somebody else that has another 10 or 20 and everybody else you can't name.
Think of categories like CloudCRM and Salesforce. Or, you know, ride-sharing and Uber creates the category and dominates it. Then you got Lyft following on and having some share, but [00:07:00] practically nobody else in the US markets anyway you could name. If you kind of reverse engineer that and you think well if that's true if you are a founder of a company, why would you not want to try to improve your odds of being the one that ends up winning that category and taking all the economics? Because otherwise, you're just scraping for market share in somebody else's category.
So, then if that's the beginning of your thinking, okay, yes, of course. If I'm running a company and I want to really make something of this company, then that means the mindset should be, I should want to be a category leader. Then how do you reverse engineer how to become that or how to at least improve your odds of becoming that? And that's what led to the whole category design process. How do you at first see a new market category, and then define it in such a rich way that everybody understands what that new category is and what it's about? In a sense, set the rules for the category that benefits your company so that if anybody else tries to come into that category they have to play by your rules, which gives you an [00:08:00] advantage, and over time, keep pounding that drum to try to win that category.
Let me do a quick explanation that everybody else could understand. If you go back to Uber's original pitch deck. So, Uber walked in and teed up the problem just that they wanted to solve, which was that it's a terrible experience to have to go out and stand on a street corner on a rainy day and try to wave down a taxi. There's gotta be a better way, and we have these smartphones in our hands with geo-location stuff. You could use the smartphone to call a car ride to right where you are. Then they showed, you know, this whole thing that they had. You know, it's familiar to everybody with the map, you see the little cars going around the map and tells you how long 'til your driver's gonna be there, and all of that.
If you look at every other ride-sharing app that exists, every one of them looks like that. So, what Uber essentially did was it saw the problem to solve, defined a solution to that problem, set the rules for how that looks and feels to everybody else, and ran away with the category. Because now everybody else who comes into it, because they did such a good job of showing us that, everybody else who [00:09:00] comes into it essentially has to do the same thing. Which means that they're all just chasing Uber all the time. So, the companies that can do that are the ones that really run away with the category and change the way we all live and work.
Erik Martinez: One of the interesting things reading part of the book and struck me. You say something about it's more efficient to be a monopoly, and that is so counterintuitive to everything that we've ever learned. You know, you go to business school and they teach you, competition's the way to build efficiencies. But you make some really great points in that discussion about monopolies and why they work in this particular scenario. So, could you unpack that a little bit further for the listening audience?
Kevin Maney: Yeah. Well, and let me sort of refine that just a little bit. If you define monopoly as you are the only one, that's actually a bad thing. Because it's really tough to build a category with just one company. What we often tell companies is if you're defining a brand new category that doesn't exist yet, [00:10:00] and within a couple of years you don't see anybody else in that category, even trying to be in the category, you've probably identified a category that doesn't really matter very much.
Having some competitors come in and help validate the category, and actually, if you're the solid category leader and you see others coming in behind you, it actually helps you because it's spreading the word of the category. Yet you're still the one seen as the leader in that category. It's all beneficial. Your aim is not necessarily to be a monopoly, but your aim is to be the winner of the category because that's where the success lies, the big successes lie.
But the nature of the beast in digital markets is that if you win the category if you become that category winner, as we define it in the book, you are a virtual monopoly because you are taking away 75, 80% of the market share of that particular category. So, when you think of like, CloudCRM and you've got Salesforce, which is the ultimate dominator in the space, but yet a benefit Salesforce, that there are others feeding behind them. Because of the nature of the way these [00:11:00] markets work, Salesforce is the big gorilla in the room.
Erik Martinez: So, next question kind of related to that. You've worked with large companies. I assume you work with some smaller startups. How much capital does it take to become that dominant player as you're building and designing this category? You know, 'cause I think that's probably one of the questions, you know, a lot of our listening audience, one of the things that makes them very interesting as business propositions, is that they're a lot of niche businesses, really well-defined products, really well-defined set. How can they apply this methodology and how much capital and time does it take to really establish that market leader position?
Kevin Maney: I actually think there are probably three different questions or answers in that. So, let's just tackle categories, size, niches, all those kind of things first. Every category doesn't have to be a hundred-billion-dollar category. As we just talk about in the book, there are plenty of very niche local category [00:12:00] winners. Towards the end of the book, I write about how in the town I grew up in, Binghamton, New York, there was this old guy who was in the Thirties had been an Olympic champion speed skater. He started a skate shop in town that had high-end skates and his brilliant advice on what skates and how to skate and all this kind of stuff. For a hundred miles around, he was the category winner of skate shops. You talked to anybody within a hundred-mile radius about, I got some kid who wants to be a champion skater, whatever. There's only one place you send him.
That's an extreme. But there's the little pockets of digital markets or of, who knows what that so you can have these niche categories. And have a goal of being the one who wins that category. Or you could have these giant international categories and that's a whole different game. Those are the ones that take it like enormous capital over time.
But again, you all have all these origins stories of Airbnb being a particular one. You know, and these two guys seeing opportunity to throw some air mattresses down in their apartment [00:13:00] while there's a huge conference going on in San Francisco, and the hotels are sold out and make a few extra bucks by letting people sleep on their floor and giving them cereal in the morning. And then they're like, aha. You know, maybe there's a way to, you know, create some kind of a business out of this. They went to 74 venture capitalists and 73 of them turned them down.
I mean, if you really are seeing a brand new category that didn't exist yet before, and you're not like trying to unseat some other big Goliath that's in there, it doesn't take much actually. It takes a really good idea and a lot of passion, and then if it's true, if the category is true and you've defined it well and you could make others see it, over time, you'll be able to raise those rounds of funding to do what you have to do because others will see it too and want to be in on the opportunity. So, builds on itself.
There's a concept that we always drag out when we're talking to companies saying that, what you want to build is what we call a zero-billion dollar company. It's a zero-billion-dollar opportunity because only you can see it right now, and you have to make others see it. And it takes a lot of [00:14:00] courage to stick to it because other people don't automatically see it. If they did, it would be an obvious idea.
You know, if you're in the category design mentality, you are in the anti-pattern business. You don't want to be doing what everybody else is doing. You're trying to do something that's really different and that takes education and that takes being able to tell a great story, and it takes the courage to stick to it even when you get turned down by the first 73 VCs you talk to.
Tim Curtis: In the book, you talk about obviously these category kings and you give examples of how this is not a new phenomenon. Category kings have been around for over a hundred years. You know, your example of Bird's Eye frozen foods. This may or may not be accurate. It's just an opinion. But what makes things seem a little different nowadays is it does feel like there's more emphasis on sensitivity to brand and messaging that go along with that category leadership.
So, as you're forming that, you will see a lot of times these brands that are beginning to disrupt or create new categories, you'll see them playing more of a [00:15:00] role in developing their brand. It's obviously important to venture capitalists. They wanna see that as a part of any kind of development. But are you seeing that, where there characteristics of these category kings that, some of the ones that you've listed, you know, in the book obviously, have placed an inordinate amount of time and energy on developing their brand as well?
Kevin Maney: Yes, I agree. But, so our way of thinking is the brand follows the design of the category. So, you have that story of what this category is supposed to be about, and why you're the company that's gonna solve this problem in this particular way, and then the brand is essentially a package of information that carries that to people. It has to be clear and it has to be appealing. That's how you get people's attention. But just branding your way into category leadership. I don't know if that happens.
Tim Curtis: I wouldn't think branding your way in, but I think it feels like branding and category development are on more of a dual track like they're simultaneously being worked on. Historically, when we would work with brands that were in [00:16:00] these spaces, there weren't as many conversations about brand, and now it seems like that plays more of a role. It's just interesting to me if that's a psychology change, if that's something that has really just kind of kept building but, you know, you've gotta do the hard work of creating the category and then establishing yourself as the king. But it just seems like there's so much more sensitivity these days to having that brand go along with that, in that development.
Kevin Maney: I don't disagree at all that it's vitally important, but let me explain a little bit about like if we work with a company on this. So, the most important output of the work that we do is what we call a POV point of view. So, the first workshop, most of what we do, we do kind of in a workshop format where we have a couple of days of getting the whole leadership team around a table and we lead these conversations.
What we're trying to understand from the people around the table are questions like, what problem do you really solve? Why are you passionate about that problem? What is the ideal solution look like and why are you the company that can do that? Very importantly, what does this category look like? What is the problem? How [00:17:00] does it manifest itself? How do you make people feel it and feel they need a solution to this problem that they don't have yet or need a new solution that they couldn't ever find before?
And if we can come away from understanding all of that, then we go away and we'll write this 800-word narrative piece that we call a POV. The first maybe half of it, is really all about defining what that problem looks like, that thing to be solved, that missing thing in the world that has to now exist. And we'll take the second half, or most of the second half, and write about what the solution needs to look like. Not necessarily describing the company's product or service, but actually what the solution needs to look like now that you've very clearly seen what the problem is. Then at the very end, we'll come in with why this company is the one that could create that solution and solve that problem in that way.
That story is essentially the story a company tells itself. Once you get alignment around the table of what those words are, you've got about 800 words that capture [00:18:00] why do you exist, and what are you trying to accomplish here, and how should people understand what you're trying to do. Then that becomes kind of like the source code that you can hand off to the brand people and now they know exactly what the brand has to say or what has to mean.
To me, if you don't do that first and just start with whatever the brand is, or even if it's a parallel track, the brand doesn't yet understand what the core of the company's about. And that's what a great brand has to do, is really translate what the core and heart and soul of a company is in a very efficient way to people so they can get in a second.
That sort of source code POV then also becomes what the marketing department uses and the team uses to create sales decks. And if you're a company raising money, you know, that's the story you could tell in your investor pitches. For that matter, you can hand it off to the product team, which has happened a number of times, where the company has gone through that process and said, oh, wow, we actually have to build the product slightly differently than we've been building it, and hand the POV off to the product team and say, here's the flag on the hill you need to go for. That's the [00:19:00] inside-out way that we end up looking at those different kinds of functions and how they manifest after the category work is done.
Tim Curtis: As you're kind of leaning into that process, you know, you talked about meeting and having, like a leadership team come around. Are there characteristics of that process where there are certain roles that you feel are vital to that process? I know when we work with clients, we like to see certain types of roles internally that we can work with in order to maximize success. When you're leaning into your process and you're getting that kicked off and you're starting to really refine and what problem they're trying to solve, are there key roles on that team that are important to you in order to measure success?
Kevin Maney: The people asked to participate, it starts with the CEO because this is a strategic decision, and this is about what the heart and soul of the company are. If the CEO is not completely and a hundred percent behind it and driving it, it's not gonna work. And then we want the other people around the table. You know, if you have a head of product, head of sales, head of [00:20:00] marketing. Maybe even your head of HR because it might influence the kind of people you wanna bring in, the kind of culture you wanna have at the company. So, we want those kinds of people around the table.
You know, in a lot of companies, especially young companies, there's a person or two that don't have a title like that actually have a lot of influence about what happens at the company. And if those people are around, we say, bring those two people too. We want them. And so usually it's I would say average is eight to ten people around the table, and that leads to a good, exciting discussion. It's enough people. There's a lot of energy in the room, but there's also not so many that everybody doesn't get heard, and it's a good number.
Erik Martinez: As a company starts to dive into this concept of category design, you've now formed the point of view. What's the next step? You got the point of view, you hand this off to the various departments. How does the organization move forward, and how do they know that they're on track? What are the key signs that this isn't quite on track, we need to make a course correction in [00:21:00] the process.
Kevin Maney: Yeah. A couple of things. So, one is that categories take time. They're not overnight things that happen. We can talk more about this or just point to a book by a guy named Paul Geroski, which is spelled G E R O S K I, called The Evolution of New Markets. He was an economist who used data to study how categories evolve over time. It has this beautifully done sort of two-piece chart that explains things as simply as you could possibly explain it for something like this. One of the takeaways from his work is that it can take 6, 7, 8 years for a category to firmly be in place.
There are probably some markers along the way. So, one is if you're really starting from day one, nobody else is out there seeing this thing you're creating a category that doesn't even exist yet. The first thing we would say is if you start putting this message out in the world that you're doing this thing, if within the next year or so you don't see others say, we're doing it too. You've identified a category that nobody seems to care much about [00:22:00] and you might want to take a look at that. So, the first marker is, are others actually coming into the category? You want to see that.
What Geroski found was that some years into the process of a category being created in those first early years, some of these competitors come in and so you end up with a sort of like a messy category where a whole bunch of companies are trying to solve that same problem essentially in that same category, but they're all doing it slightly differently and nobody's sure exactly how this is gonna turnout. You see the early adopters are buying, but most people sitting on the sidelines waiting for this to sort of solidify. Then there becomes this moment in time when what he calls the dominant design gets chosen.
It happens for a variety of different reasons. But at some point in time, in a category that matters, the world decides that this one particular version of how you solve that problem, that's the way it should work. Once that happens, every other company that's not on board with the dominant design essentially starts to fall away.
So, your goal in a category that you've created, your goal over time is to constantly [00:23:00] make sure that everybody is seeing you as the one who's likely to be the dominant design. So, it takes actually years of constantly reinforcing that message and constantly building the product to satisfy that need. It's not nearly as important to be first as it is to be the dominant design 5, 6, 7 years down the road. That's the goal. That's the flag in the hill that every company that wants to be a category winner needs to understand and go towards.
Just add one little thing about your question, it actually goes back to your capital question too. We've seen very small companies start to get that category message out there and start to claim their category in sort of like very inexpensive gorilla ways. Like, going in and doing some stunt at a trade show or even just putting on a dinner for the 12 most important people you could address in your market.
We did a project for LinkedIn over this past summer. That was a chance we got to work with a company with real resources. We had this category that we call deep sales with them. If you go on LinkedIn and look at hashtag [00:24:00] deep sales, you'll see just a flood of stuff that they did. They bought a wrapper for the Wall Street Journal. They took over Time Square billboards. They did this enormous social media push. They created content.
You know, so if you've got resources and you're going big, you could do that. But if you're five people and a credit card, you can find ways to get that message out there too. Depends on who you are and what you're trying to do.
Erik Martinez: And I think this goes back to what Tim was asking you earlier, that it's really important that as you start to delve into this process, that you're also telling the story on a very consistent basis in as many ways as you possibly can. Not necessarily every single channel out there, but the channels that matter to the audience you're trying to reach. I think that's a real critical lesson in marketing in general, right? We need to be present in the channels where our audience is, and keep telling our story so that people hear that story and start to buy into the concept.
Kevin Maney: Yeah, [00:25:00] absolutely. This goes back to the importance of the whole company buying into that POV as the heart and soul of what a company is. I can't tell you how many companies I've gone into where if you pulled together the marketing messaging, the sales decks, the investor decks, and advertising campaigns, I would say in 90% of the companies we go into and meet, all of those are different. Each one of those is telling the story in some different way because they've evolved sort of on their own separately. To your point, Erik, the best way to keep momentum and gain momentum is of all those stories are lock, sync, the same, and that's how you magnify the message.
Erik Martinez: Yeah. That's pretty cool. You were talking earlier, there's an interesting example you gave with talking about Salesforce and Siebel in the book where Salesforce came in and somewhat stole the market from Siebel Systems. There was an interesting story in there about gorilla marketing, some of the things that the gentleman, I'm forgetting his name off the top of my head right now.
Kevin Maney: Marc Benioff.
Erik Martinez: [00:26:00] Yeah. That he did. Would you just tell the audience a little bit about that sequence of events where he was doing some kind of unconventional marketing and PR-type activities to set the stage and establish Salesforce as the leader against who was, at the moment the perceived market leader?
Kevin Maney: Yeah. Yeah. In working on the book and trying to put together this whole category design process, you know, we learned from the greats. We went back and studied how others did it. Benioff was brilliant at it.
One of the things that we emphasize so much with companies is to start by showing us the problem. If you go back to the way Salesforce first showed up on most people's radar was with this no-software logo, if you remember that. The circle with the red line and with software in the middle. That was a symbol that led back to the problem that he was defining, which was yeah, you need this CRM software. It really helps you run your business, but the problem is that you're buying these giant software packages that are clunky and awful to install [00:27:00] and take a year to get your team up and running on or whatever.
He's turning Seibel, which was a solution before, brilliantly turning it into the problem by telling people how difficult it is to use this thing, even though what it does is something you found important. If that's the problem. What's the solution? The solution has let us run it, and you just tap in by the cloud. Of course, at the time, this was early in cloud. Everybody's going, really, I'm going to be using something in the cloud for my enterprise. But he was defining a new solution to this problem that he identified that people didn't even really quite understand it was a problem until Benioff defined it that way.
So, he defined it as a problem, said, we have the solution, and then he did these fun, brilliant things to try to make that point. Like one of them was he staged a mock protest on the streets of San Francisco during some big marketing conference and had people going around with no software signs saying, down with software, you know, that kind of thing. Just got attention. That kind of thing worked because, you know, even though wasn't an 800-word narrative like we're describing, but there was a strong [00:28:00] POV inside of Salesforce at the time.
On premise, CRM was a problem. The fix is this new way of doing things to the cloud. Here's what it's gonna look like and why it's going change the world and consistently telling that story, and doing it in some really traditional ways and some really crazy interesting ways.
Erik Martinez: And by the way, we are not encouraging you all to go out and start your own protests of your biggest competitors.
Kevin Maney: People do some interesting things and sometimes it can work. Don't take anything off the table when it comes to ideas, right?
Tim Curtis: Brilliantly unorthodox, for sure.
Kevin Maney: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Tim Curtis: As we start to turn to wrap up here, kinda curious what you might leave the audience. If there's a piece of advice, one last piece of advice you would say, I'd love for them to know this. What would that advice be to the listeners?
Kevin Maney: Well, look. There are thousands and thousands of businesses that are reasonably and even very successful in other people's categories and win 20% market share and are a great business. [00:29:00] There's nothing wrong with that, but there is a layer of company founders that have a bigger goal in mind. They want to do something that really changes the way we do things and solves a problem people didn't even know they had yet or solves a problem they'd never been able to solve in a new way because technology in the context around it has changed so much.
If you are one of those founders, then this way of thinking, of thinking outside in, what is the problem to be solved? What does that category look like? What are the rules that should be around it? What does a solution look like? And define that first, and then take it inside and say, now we're going to build a company that satisfies that category. That becomes a very interesting and novel way to think about what you're creating as a company.
Ninety-nine out of a hundred times a company is about creating the company and then trying to fit itself into a category or tell the category story based on what it's already doing. That outside-in way of thinking is a way to boil down the approach that we take to this. See the category [00:30:00] first and build the solution to the category. Rather than building something and trying to define a category, you're going into.
Tim Curtis: Good advice.
Erik Martinez: Yeah, that's fantastic advice.
Tim Curtis: So, if someone wants to reach out to you, what's the best way to do that?
Kevin Maney: Yeah. The firm we have is called Category Design Advisors, pretty straightforward. We have a website, categorydesignadvisors.com. A lot of information, there's blogs, there's resources, videos about category design there if you just want to get some background and education, and there's also there how to get in touch with us. We certainly work with companies of all sizes. We also work with a lot of VC firms because they have a stake in having their portfolio companies think this way. Yeah, we're happy to hear from anybody.
Erik Martinez: So Kevin, thank you so much for your time today. I think we could talk about this topic for hours and hours 'cause I find it absolutely fascinating and the examples in the book are extraordinary. And I definitely encourage everybody pick up a copy of Kevin's book and [00:31:00] learn about this very interesting topic. I think it could help a lot of businesses just frame what they're trying to accomplish. That's it for today's discussion. I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.
Tim Curtis: And I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne.
Erik Martinez: Thanks a lot and y'all have a great day.