Counterview: "To Focus or not to focus?"- Ayyappa v/s Surjendu


Ayyappa Nagubandi, founder at Possibillion and also a guest columnist with us, recently put forth an interesting viewpoint wherein he argued that 'focus' is outdated. The article finds essence in one of the paragraph where Ayyappa writes,

Placing too many eggs in a single basket is a bad idea. Multi-tasking is not nearly an alternate model. It is also a challenge full of pitfalls. Practically speaking, multi-tasking gives you the opportunity to look at various alternatives and revise your priorities without being hampered by an uninformed decision-making process or a commitment based on imagination.
To counter this viewpoint, Surjendu Kuila, co-founder at Reviews42 resorted to a well argued comment. We'd like to put that forward here:

With all due respect to Ayyappa, I would beg to differ here. In my entire journey of an entrepreneur and as key employee in various startups in Silicon Valley USA (including Apple, Yahoo, RSA and various others) and in India, all the founders have emphasized a lot on Focus. And, I also think and truly believe that there is no alternative to "Razor Sharp Focus". In my current venture, we burnt our hands doing too many things and now since the last few months when we focused on our core deliverable, we have succeeded. And, I have heard the same story from all my entrepreneur friends. Focus is the mantra.

While in Apple, when my team was building the iTunes application, we were trying to do too many things at one go. Steve (yes Steve Jobs) that time told us too focus on the core deliverable and not even spend few seconds on peripheral feature/products. Henceforth, Steve and many other visionaries have made us realize the importance of Focus.

The world is replete with examples of how companies screwed themselves up when focussing on too many things. Yahoo for example has products galore in its kitty and see what is the state of the company. Google labs have too many products but you probably would have never heard of more than 5 successful products from G Labs. There is no dearth of talent in Google to build a social networking platform. But, see the deplorable state of Orkut (only famous in Brazil). There are far too many such examples which I don't want to dwell on.

What I am trying to drive home is: Even one idea takes 200% of founder's bandwidth. How on earth could u dabble on so many ideas? Just not possible. However, what I am NOT trying to say is Focus and stop listening to the signals market and users throw at you. If you feel, your product has no acceptance you Pivot. But that does not mean that you build the product at the first place thinking of Pivoting. Focus on building your product, stay on it for a considerable time and then u can think of dabbling onto your next idea if there is no uptake. Reiterating, stay on it for considerable time because it takes long time to gain acceptance in a market such as India.

Finally, it all comes down to perspective but it is certainly very important to ask yourself the question while working on an idea. "If I am spreading out, am I adding enough value with each aspect? If I'm keeping a razor sharp focus, am I restricting myself too much? Is there more I can do?"

What do you think?