Optimise for tempo

It’s hard to know beforehand what will work, and what won’t. For that reason, experiment rapidly and focus on speed of execution above almost everything else. Remove any obstacles (approval processes!) that hinder faster execution and faster learning.


  • Tempo starts with drive, ability and ambition. Building a startup isn’t for the faint-hearted, and it is important to communicate this to hires. You not only need to be smart or hard working. To truly succeed, you probably need to be both. A certain (unusual) level of commitment and drive is needed to execute at the required speed.
  • But tempo and cadence aren’t only ultimately determined at the individual level. Once you’re past 10+ people in the team, tempo is more and more about process and internal policies. Work to streamline processes of decision making and approval, to make sure that things can get shipped quickly.
  • Tempo is also about direction and efficiency. Spend time to make sure everyone knows where you’re going. Make room for thorough analysis and thought. As the Navy SEAL’s saying goes: slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
  • As a leader in the company, it’s important to create an environment where people can take risks and not get punished when something gets screwed up. People that are afraid to take risks will seek everyone’s approval, and therefore can’t move fast (and also slow others down). Facebook famously used to say: move fast and break things. It’s part of the process.

In Practice

In 2020 and 2021, we got the opportunity — as an agency — to work with TikTok, right as the company was shattering every growth record there is. We got the lucky fortune that we were there when TikTok launched its advertising platform, and over the two years we worked together, we helped them roll out various global initiatives to bring advertisers on board and grow their ad-based revenue.

At TikTok, speed was prioritised above everything else. TikTok was all about doing things fast. What we learned from them was simple (but hard to achieve):

A relentless speed of execution is crucial to achieving breakout success. Speed matters, more than almost anything else.

Fast is good, and slow is bad. And you can see similar patterns in other extremely successful businesses. Elon Musk repeatedly talks about the need to work insanely hard, and work extreme hours. He obviously believes that speed is crucial. Sam Altman, the founder/CEO of OpenAI, says:

I  still underestimate the compounding power of the rapid execution and iterated learning feedback loop. A commitment to this, over the course of a career, is the closest thing you can get to guaranteed success.

Finally, Patrick Collison (founder & CEO of Stripe) says:

Before product-market fit… just care about speed of iteration according to your customer feedback. So in terms of hiring, get people that can help you build the product faster… anything that minimises the time between observing a need or a problem, and the execution or the fix for it.

Speed is the ultimate competitive advantage. It is the defining characteristic of the leader in virtually every industry you look at.

Pair with

Repeat what works