The Question All Startups Need To Ask Themselves

July 18, 2017

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

In Simon Sinek’s many talks and his book “Start with why”, he repeats this phrase dozens of times to make sure that everyone walks away with this one idea — What and how you do something is important, but why you do it is what inspires people to buy your product.

A common problem with startups is that they’re created by people simply because they think it will be a huge success that they’ll be able to sell for a truckload of money. If their idea doesn’t work, oh well, they have thousands of ideas and they’ll keep trying stuff until something works. While that kind of hustle is great, It’s a lot harder to make a successful business if you can’t answer why you’re doing it.

In this article, I’m going to talk about why the question of, WHY is the most important thing for a startup to know, and give you some advice for finding your WHY.

Without telling people why you do what you do, you’re left with only telling the world about what you do and how you do it… What I want you to do right now is stop reading this for a moment and take a couple min to think about the WHAT and HOW of your business.

let’s take Airbnb —

Their WHAT is accommodations and their HOW is by allowing people to rent their rooms to other people. That’s a great idea, but it’s not enough to simply tell people those things and become as big as Airbnb has become. It’s also not enough to separate themselves from their competition, and It’s not enough to inspire people to use their service.

That’s where WHY comes in.

“We imagine a world where you can belong anywhere.”

With just that simple sentence, Airbnb tells you why they do what they do and what drives all their business and marketing decisions. It’s not about just a place to stay, it’s about an experience and helping people make discoveries of a different sort. Check out their site, You will see nothing about places to stay, only about experiences such as “Aquatic Expeditions” or ‘Crafters in Florence“. In one of their commercials, they say “Don’t go to Paris, Don’t go to LA, NY, or Tokyo — Live there. Then at the end, you hear “…even if it’s just for a night.”

Their WHY is the difference between another failed startup with a cool idea, and a company worth $30 billion

Their WHY is the difference between another failed startup with a cool idea, and a company worth $30 billion. Now, I’m not saying their marketing is the only thing that made them successful, it was likely a combination of a few different things, but unlocking their WHY inspired people to do more than try to find a cheap place to stay.

So, now I ask you, what’s your WHY? Why did you start your business? Why do people use your product or service? Why does what you do matter to people? As you think about that, try to stay away from answers that have anything to do with money. There’s usually something more inspiring to find than money.

Once you find your “why”, take a look around your business, in both the people working in it and the marketing that goes out to potential customers. Then ask yourself one more question, does your WHY align with your company?

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