Over the last few years, I’ve developed an obsession with the “paradox of choice.” I think it’s one of the most fascinating concepts I’ve encountered as it relates to the start-up world.
The paradox was first defined in 2004 by American psychologist Barry Schwartz, but I would contend that the concept is even more relevant now in 2017.
Simply stated, the over-proliferation of choice has created a paradoxical effect on our society: instead of being liberating, it’s actually debilitating, paralyzing, and stressful.
As Barry says in the book, “Autonomy and freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”
As it relates to the business world, companies used to believe that the more choices they offered, the better it was for the consumer. But in fact, as I’ve seen in the start-up world, it may be the polar opposite (i.e. less choice is better for the consumer).
We’ve all felt the anxiety associated with an abundance of choices….”I don’t know what to order, everything on the menu looks delicious”….”I’m not sure which shirt to buy, there are too many styles and colors”…”Should I go to that event on Friday night, hit that business dinner, or just stay home?”
We can always refer to the above dilemmas as “high-class problems”, but they are problems nonetheless, and they create unnecessary stress in our lives.
With that said, there are now countless intelligent entrepreneurs striving to help us alleviate this burden of choice. This is precisely why you’ve seen popular start-ups like Warby Parker (glasses), Casper (mattresses), and Dollar Shave Club (razors) generate such tremendous success.
These companies simplify your life and effectively make the choice for you. For example, who likes to go to the mattress store and bounce up and down on 30 mattresses in hopes to find that “perfect” mattress?? No one!!
These successful start-ups provide a compelling direct-to-consumer business model with only a few highly authentic and amazing products. And “authentic” is definitely the key word. Once a brand establishes genuine and sincere credibility with me, I will trust them forever. In the case of Casper, I bought their mattress, and then their pillows, and then their sheets. The company has simplified my life by removing the stress and confusion associated with furnishing my bedroom.
One of my most recent investments was in a new beer start-up in Venice Beach called House Beer. If you have a minute, checkout the promo video on the company’s website. It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen, because they emphasize the fact that they only offer one (amazing) beer 365 days a year. No seasonal beers, no flavored beers, etc….just ONE F@#&ING BEER!
Merely offering only one product might sound strange or unattractive to our parent’s generation, but as a millennial, I love the concept of companies becoming more specialized and simplified. Not only does it remove stress from my life, but 99% of the time, that one product is actually the best product for me anyway.
So, I encourage you to start recognizing how much negative energy you burn on seemingly easy choices and to start paying more attention to this trend of simplification as opposed to complication.
I think Leonardo da Vinci said it best, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
That’s why I always tell my friends and portfolio companies, “LESS IS MORE!”