The incredible power of consistency

How startups can use consistency as a superpower

The world's best fast food burger is In-N-Out Burger. Don't hate me if you have another favorite, but a lot of people agree like all the folks that waited 8 hours for a burger during the opening of their first Idaho location.

Don’t these burgers just look like the best ever?

I have never had a bad experience at In-N-Out Burger. While I keep hoping they would open a location in New York City, it is something that will never happen.

Why? Because of consistency.

While the locations, operations, and service are all consistently excellent, this is not what sets them apart from their fast food competitors. Their key differentiator is the consistent quality of the food. They process their beef from only three processing centers and deliver fresh patties to their locations.

This level of consistency speaks truth to their motto “Quality you can taste”. They even went so far to close all their Texas locations for two days when the quality of burger buns was subpar. They do not skimp and they do not waver.

I am a bit of a consistency freak. After my startup, I wanted to build up my network, so I went to a meetup every weekday. I did that for a year. Around the same time, I started a blog. Inspired by Fred Wilson’s AVC blog, I posted something every day. I did that for five years straight.

Everything started small at the start. I had a few hundred connections on LinkedIn. My blog had maybe 100 page views per month. Within a year, I had thousands of connections on LinkedIn from all the events I attended and over 100,000 followers on my blog. It led to opportunities to speak at events, deals to invest in, and startups to work with. It changed the course of my life.

Consistency is hard work and persistence.

The same can be said for startups. Despite the fast pace, chaotic shifts, and radical pivots that occur in every startup, the ones that become iconic companies had at their core something they did on a consistent basis. Some such as Canva or Dropbox had a relentless focus on enhancing the user experience of their product. Others like HubSpot or Salesforce built their success on the foundation of go-to-market excellence and execution.

Consistency plays a critical role in driving long-term success. You know this if you have ever started a fitness routine or studied a language. The more time you commit, the better you get. In business settings, we see this in growing an audience, gaining deeper insights, unlocking new opportunities. By doing whatever it is we are doing in a consistent manner, the better decisions we make and the greater our impact.

Even though we know the benefits of consistency, following through on our plans is often a struggle. The work itself is hard and sometimes monotonous. The results take a long time to achieve. Many times, outside influences distract us and throw us off-track of our goals.

Lots of truth, consistency drives our success.

This is the constant struggle in startups. Building anything from the ground up is hard and often takes seven to ten years or more to have a successful exit. Along the way are all sorts of pitfalls, well-intentioned advice, and shiny objects that send startups jumping from idea to idea. Just two years ago, startups were jumping into web3, now they are all in with AI.

The startups that succeed do not get distracted by the noise of the startup echo chamber or the buzz of the latest fads. They do not constantly pivot to the hottest trend or operate in a sea of chaos. They maintain a tight hold of the vision and execute a few things with consistency.

Consistency brings several benefits. First, by doing something in a consistent way and on a consistent schedule, you not only get better at the thing, but you identify ways to “invent and simplify” as we like to say at AWS. You remove the inefficiencies to be able to operate faster and with less overhead. Consistency also enables you to uncover opportunities. As you dive deep into your growing body of data, you start to see connections that unlock potential new revenue streams or open up new customer markets. Lastly, consistency helps establish culture because the repetition breeds habits that get ingrained in the startup. Over time, the team creates its own language, processes, and ways of working that form the foundation of the startup as it grows.

Consistency can also have a downside. It can breed institutional laziness that often comes out as “we’ve always done it like this” or “that’s just how it is”. This is particularly deadly when a process becomes inefficient as a startup scales. Collectively these “paper cuts” add up to slow down progress, whether it is tech debt that hamstrings feature development, manual sales & marketing workflows, siloed operational data sources, etc.

The other hazard of blind consistency is it can lead to missing the bigger picture or getting trapped on the wrong path. Slack was a failed game company before realizing their internal messaging app was a bigger idea. Outreach was a CRM for recruiters until they noticed this new trend of sales development and switched to serving SDR teams.

We had a similar experience with one of our programs from a few years back. As the live audio app Clubhouse was taking off, we thought hosting a show featuring startups building on AWS could open us up to new audiences. It was a slow grind in the beginning, but some of our shows started to bring in hundreds and then thousands of listeners. Over the course of 22 months, we hosted 300 shows with 400 guests, gathering over 11,000 to our community, and brought in over 100,000 listeners. Along the way, we made connections with startups around the world, helped numerous startups with AWS questions, and even brought in new customers to AWS.

We could have kept going, but two things were clear from the data. With the pandemic fading away, people were less active on live audio shows. The second learning was that Clubhouse and similar apps like Twitter Spaces saw their growth stall, meaning we were not getting new listeners. By Dec 2022, we aired our last show and closed up shop.

Consistency is a superpower for your startup. If you apply it correctly, it can accelerate your learning and your results, as long as you stay the course and make sure to keep the bigger picture in mind.

What are your thoughts on consistency? Are there aspects of your startup that could benefit from being more intentionally consistent on execution?

We all know that AI is having a huge impact for businesses. But how much?

This week Klarna, the Swedish buy-now pay-later company, announced that their AI chatbot handled 2.3 million conversations, or two-thirds of all customer service chats, since launching one month ago. In a statement, they shared that their chatbot was “doing the equivalent work of 700 full-time agents.” They believe the chatbot can drive $40 million in profit improvement.

The week before BT Group, the giant UK telecommunications provider, shared that they used Amazon CodeWhisperer to generate over 100,000 lines of code. This amounted to automating around 12% of repetitive and time-consuming software development, with software engineers accepting 37% of suggestions.

While neither of these are startups, it is super interesting to see how quickly they have adopted Generative AI services and how much impact they have seen. This is both an opportunity for startups to supply specific AI-based solutions and an opportunity for startups to incorporate AI for their own purposes. Especially in the context of things that hold back startups from effectively scaling, Generative AI can address operational, data, GTM, and engineering roadblocks.

As Andy Jassy said last December in a CNBC interview, “Generative AI is going to change every customer experience.”

Today’s topic was inspired by the realization that we have now published our 40th edition! Since launching Founders in the Cloud last May, we have gained 5,257 subscribers on LinkedIn, well over 100,000 have seen our newsletters, and our email open rates are over 55%. While it seemed like an aggressive target to go with weekly cadence, we decided to push ahead and are happy with the results we have seen. So thank you for reading & supporting our journey!

Mark headed to Mexico City this week!

This week Mark headed to Mexico City meeting with startups and supporting the recent announcement of a new AWS region launching in Mexico in 2025. This launch will also bring $5 billion of investment into Mexico while enabling startups to leverage a local region for data residency requirements, lower latency needs, and serve demand for cloud services across Latin America. Thanks to all the folks that took time to meet this week!

Basil was hanging out online presenting some awesome Generative AI content at the AWS Innovate event this week. If you missed it, you can watch the content on-demand here. Can also check out Basil’s awesome promo video 🙂