Person-Market Fit

For those of us in startup world we’re all too familiar with the term “Product-Market Fit” which was coined by Marc Andreessen:

Product-market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.

In other words, it’s the degree to which a product can satisfy (and hopefully more than satisfy) the markets demands – do this well and you’ve got a really exciting company and business!

But I’ve never heard it apply to a person, until I said it aloud to my wife just a few weeks ago as I began putting together a new company.

Essentially, the last 6 months have my attempts at finding my own “fit” out here in the San Francisco / Bay Area and what I was supposed to do professionally.

You see, when I first came out here my hopes were to do something “different” and those ideas coalesced around venture capital as a possible full-time gig or joining an early stage company and helping them to grow and scale.

I did both, for a time, but was ultimately unhappy with my attempts and after a number of disappointing false starts I decided that I wanted to go “run into another wall” for a bit of time.

In short, the “other” wall was going to be me heading back into a direction that I had experienced before and I decided that I wanted to start a new company with a mission that was worthy of pursuing for a very decent amount of time.

But in my conversation with my wife, on the eve of putting the first pieces together (and then going on a 72 hour sprint to get things moving) I told her that it felt as if I had spent the last 6 months doing market research on myself and trying to answer that somewhat existential question about who I am and what I was supposed to do with myself out here on the left-coast.

I came up with the term “Person/Market Fit” and it just felt right because that’s what I’ve really been doing: Testing the waters, experimenting with a few different opportunities, growing my relationship / friendship pool, and really starting from scratch.

So, technically-speaking, I was trying to identify if I, myself, was in a good market and if I could personally satisfy that market (with my own set of skills, talents, experience, background… etc.). In other words, a working definition might be:

Person-market fit means being in a market that can capitalize on your talents, experience, and background to optimal effect.

John Saddington

(Of course, this is something better explained in conversation with a trusted friend then being written out on paper…)

In any case, when things reached a head with yet another let-down, it dawned on me that I “found” the fit that I was looking for (by not fitting in at any other company).

It was never a question for both my wife and I whether or not I’d start another company – that was definitely part of my future. It was the timing that wasn’t completely understood and my wife had hoped that I would have taken a longer break from the founder title since we were still recovering from the last great (and very positive) adventure.

But it was time and when you know it, well… you just know it. It’s that point where your gut and intuition align perfectly well with opportunity and I couldn’t have received a strongly “sign” to just get it started.

And why the heck not, right? Life is just too short not to go after the things that really matter and to spend time on the things that can really push the needle for yourself and for others. Paul Graham recently reminded me of this as well, saying:

Don’t wait before climbing that mountain or writing that book or visiting your mother. You don’t need to be constantly reminding yourself why you shouldn’t wait. Just don’t wait.

Relentlessly prune bullshit, don’t wait to do things that matter, and savor the time you have. That’s what you do when life is short.

It’s been 6 months of having to deal with a lot of “bullshit” and I’m generally tired of being on the receiving end of it. Time to work on things that matter again.

It’s time to do something that really, really scares me… it’s time to be fearless.