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Entrepreneurs: Musical.ly — Channeling Andy Grove

by Miki Saxon

In 1849 Jean-Baptiste Karr said, “the more things change the more they stay the same” and that’s still true today.

On the surface you wouldn’t think Musical.ly’s Alex Zhu Zhu and Intel’s Andy Grove have a lot in common, but you would be wrong.

Both created cultures that incorporate a critical attitude — paranoia —  although they look very different.

Andy Grove: “When I came to Intel, I was scared to death. I left a very secure job where I knew what I was doing and started running R&D for a brand new venture in untried territory. It was terrifying.”

Zhu Zhu: “The day we released this application to the market we realized it was never going to take off. It was doomed to be a failure.”

Musical.ly’s first pivot went from a video education app to a combination music/videos/social network that was catnip to their target early-teen demographic.

That led to growth, but it was slow growth, which the founders knew was leading to a slow death.

The a-ha tweak happened when they moved the logo and growth exploded.

They had realized that when people shared the music videos, the logo was cropped out on Instagram and Twitter. They repositioned it so now it was easy to see that it was a Musical.ly video.

Grove said, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” (Grove’s paranoia did not condone bullying or a culture of fear.)

Zhu Zhu is far from complacent and keeps pushing and iterating faster.

“I think we have these scary moments all the time because you’re never safe. Even if you have tens of millions of users, you have to keep them always engaged. I think it’s better for us to be scared all the time rather than feel content that we built a successful product and now we can lay back.”

If you don’t care for paranoia, you can substitute a combination of never-ending mindfulness, objective reality as opposed to comforting assumptions and unremittingly honest feedback.

Image credit: musical.ly

2 Responses to “Entrepreneurs: Musical.ly — Channeling Andy Grove”
  1. KGNo Gravatar Says:

    So true. And sometimes even paranoia is not enough.

  2. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    Then what would you suggest?

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