Laws of 10x found everywhere. For good reason?


We love stories more than science. A good story causes us to see patterns in noise.

Maybe that’s the case with the idea that all manner startup phenomena conform to a sort of “10x Rule.”

But I think it’s actually true, or true enough that it’s an excellent rule of thumb that should be assumed until proven false.  Here’s a slew of examples to guide you:

  1. Business models change based on pricing in roughly 10x increments
  2. Great people are more than 10x better than average.
  3. Winning products have at least one attribute that’s 10x better than all competitors (and it’s not necessarily design).
  4. VCs must invest in 10x winners, pushing every one of their portfolio companies to seek that outcome, even if it means increased risk and sub-optimal cash utilization.
  5. Companies do not naturally 10x their size or quality; that achievement requires intentional focus and investment.
  6. SaaS returns in a market are a power law; winner can take 10x the profits of the next.
    Examples: eBay ≥ 10 x Etsy; Google ≥ 10 x Bing; Facebook ≥ 10 x Twitter; Salesforce ≥ 10 x [rest of market]
  7. Your best marketing channel is often 10x the productivity of the next-best. True of content-marketing also.
  8. Scale is 10x harder than operating at small scale.  (Because complexity is non-linear.)
  9. 1/10th of customers are likely (gross-margin) unprofitable. That doesn’t mean you should “fire” them. But it’s a calculation worth understanding, and a phenomenon worth measuring. And sometimes, changing your policy or product to reduce that set, is a quick and strategic way to generate profit.
  10. 1/10th of customers generate 10x more support calls than the rest.  Some of that is OK, but some of that might be a signal about your product, or about your customers, or about those customers.
  11. One or two decisions or principles will be 10x more important than all others combined.

Things aren’t always 10x, and some things have a 10x property for years but can evolve until there isn’t another 10x.

Still, it’s safe to assume there’s a 10x truth, and spend your time seeking that truth, rather than worrying about and fiddling with one hundred variables, almost none of which will turn out to be important.

  • skmurphy

    Think about two levels of Pareto (80-20 rule)

    4% of population contribute 64% each 1% on average contributes 16%

    16% of population contribute 16% each 1% on average contributes 1%

    80% of population contributes 20% each 1% on average contributes 0.25%