3 types of winning

Each month I pay Comcast for internet access at my house and their service sucks. I have the option to switch to Qwest but I’ve heard they are just as bad. As a customer, I’m not very happy but dropping my internet isn’t exactly an option. In this transaction there’s one clear winner, and it’s not me.

When I go to concerts, I often end up buying tickets through Ticketmaster. When I do, Ticketmaster makes money and the venue that selected Ticketmaster as the payment system gets a financial kickback. Event-goers are pissed over the exorbitant fees, but both the company (Ticketmaster) and the customer (the venues) are happy. It’s a win for both the company and the customer.

Occasionally you’ll find a company that provides a triple win. I click on Google ads as they’re often helpful. Advertisers are happy to pay for my clicks because on average I’m going to spend far more on their store than I’m going to cost them. Google, of course, is happy to take their cut as well – a great example of a win/win/win. Everyone is happy: the company, the customer and the world.

There aren’t many companies that can get away with being a single winner. These types of wins are really only possible when they have near-monopolistic control of the market. Since everyone hates them, they’re guaranteed to be overturned unless there’s some large market force keeping the status quo.

The vast majority of companies in the world are a double win. You have to make at least one customer happy to have a business. Most double win companies aren’t hated by the rest of the world like Ticketmaster, they’re just invisible since they don’t make much of a difference to anyone besides the customer.

Triple win companies are pretty rare. It’s hard enough trying to satisfy your customers without trying to please everyone else while you’re at it. But of the three types of companies, triple wins are the most fun. Other than your competitors, the entire world is cheering for you to succeed (well, at least until you get big).

One of the reasons I’m having so much fun working on Torbit is that our product is a triple win. I regularly see tweets from people recommending Torbit to websites that are slow. Everyone on the Internet appreciates fast loading websites, even if they have no idea who we are or have no conscious recognition of the difference we make. Our customers love us because we make them more money by making their websites faster. And of course, as long as we’re providing value, people will happily pay us as well.

At the company where you work, who’s winning? For the entrepreneur, what kind of company are you building? I want to make money just as much as the next guy, but it’s not what drives me to get out of bed in the morning. You can be wildly profitable no matter which path you choose, but my guess is you’ll have a lot more fun if you find a way to make the world a better place while you’re at it.

  • Agreed, and I'd add that knowing you have a triple-win company can keep you motivated even when things become challenging.

  • Single win and double win companies are vulnerable to disruption by upstarts focused on creating value across the entire product or service ecosystem. Just today news broke that Eventbrite raised $50m to take on Ticketmaster, and whether or not Eventbrite wins this particular battle it is another example of a startup going dinosaur hunting where the target is a company focused on providing value for itself. If an entrepreneur needs an idea for a company they need look no farther than single/double winners.

  • Great post, Josh, and thanks Jeremiah for bringing sharing it. Josh, really enjoyed your presentation at NewTech Boulder in April. Very exciting.

  • ComcastMark

    Hi there!

    I work for Comcast. Can you share more info about your experience with Comcast? I would like to help.

    Sorry for the trouble.

    Mark Casem
    Comcast Corp.
    National Customer Operations
    We_can_help@cable.comcast.com

    • Thanks for reaching out Mark. I must say, one of the thing you guys are doing well is your customer support via social media.

      My biggest general complaint is that we're getting less than half the download speed we're paying for.

      Then a couple months ago my internet slowed to a crawl. Download speeds were okay, but it would take forever to connect and would periodically drop out altogether. I called Comcast and they insisted it could be fixed with a modem reset. Nope. Another call. Try replacing your wireless router. Still broken. Oh, you must need to replace your modem. Okay. Finally after replacing every bit of hardware Comcast sent out an engineer who replaced all the cables leading into our house. Our speeds improved, but we're stilling having intermittent latency issues when connecting. I'd call again but I'm pretty sure they'd tell me it was my laptop that is broken (it's not).

      I'd appreciate any help you can provide! Thanks!