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Wade G. Morgan
Product Strategy & Operations at Airtable February 16

Love this question as well, and I'll approach it from a couple different perspectives. First, I'd acknowledge that some markets are so big or fast growing that multiple amazingly successful winners can emerge. As of today, Apple is worth $2.8T and Microsoft is worth $2.25T. While I'm sure both companies wouldn't mind adding their other's market share to their portfolio, I also think any reasonable person would consider both outcomes desireable.

This example is not to say there's not need to play defense if a market is large or fast growing enough. Quite the opposite, both companies needed to battle furious competition until they helped the market consolidate from multiple dozens of players to a handful. That said, the example highlights that the way we strategize & define "defense" is contextual to a variety of factors, and changes over time.

Second, there's the old adage that the best defense is a great offense. While not perfect, there are a couple ways to translate that sports parlance to business:

  1. Recognize if you have a better mousetrap
  2. Identify ways you can uniquely innovate 

Keeping Apple & Microsoft in mind, they've demonstrated the ability to innovate on multiple dimensions - product innovation, distribution channels, platform ecosystem and more.

For Airtable, having a clear idea of the type of market we are in, the maturation stage of that market, and our unique / potential pillars of innovation are all inputs into how we play offense & defense. Clarity within these dimensions enables us to lean into or away from potential product investments. While it can be tempting to try to build every capability each perceived competitor has, being rooted in your unique advantages and your perspective of your environment can guide how you think about which areas make sense to defend, and which areas are ok to ignore.

Last but not least, keep your customers first. Sounds simple, doesn't always turn out to be. As company's scale, it can feel harder and harder to track the challenges customers face. Create systems that incentivize people to maintain a customer focus, and fight the urge to over-index on short term, unsustainable wins. As best as you can, set customers up for long term, sustainable, thoughtful success.