Skip to content

111 Mike Maples, Jr. On How Legendary Entrepreneurs Create Categories

Thursday 23rd May 2024
LOM_Episodes-111 - Mike Maples Jr

Welcome to a special episode of Lochhead of Marketing. What you’re about to hear are the thoughts of one of the smartest people in Silicon Valley on Category Design. He is the entrepreneur turned venture capitalist Mike Maples, Jr.

Mike Maples, Jr. Is the co-founder of Floodgate Capital. Floodgate has led early-stage investments in companies like Twitter, Lyft, and much more.

Recently, I had the pleasure of showing up as a guest on Mike’s podcast. Usually after the guest podcast, he does a shorter episode where he synthesizes what he thinks he has learned from the guest.

Today’s episode is just that. Listen to Mike Maples, Jr. as he shares his thoughts on category design for entrepreneurs. With that said, let’s get into it.

Being a Legendary Entrepreneur

“Why do I, as an entrepreneur, want to begin category design at the beginning? Because you want to be 80 percent of a multi-billion dollar market that you created, that you design. And that makes you almost impossible to catch.” – Christopher Lochhead

Mike starts off by quoting a quote from the episode. This quote pretty much sums up why someone aiming to be a legend should do category design right from the onset. Legendary companies are born from extraordinary startups building breakthrough products that change the future.

Though you don’t always have to start from scratch. Few entrepreneurs and businesses realize that there’s a third lever to pull on the path to greatness: creating a category to add to the confusion.

Category Design vs Branding

Mike is aware that a lot of people are still not clear as to what Category Design is. Some confuse it with branding; some marketing ploy that can help your product resonate without actually changing the product.

“Category design could be confused with getting the right marketing slogan or the right three letter acronym like CRM or ERP or some other type of message that will hopefully resonate. Or we make the mistake of believing it’s a message you use to describe your business after you’ve achieved product market fit. But it’s far more than that.” – Mike Maples, Jr.

Traditional Marketing vs Breakthrough Startup

Mike gives a brief explanation of how Traditional Marketing works. Simply put, they are more concerned on fighting for market share of their current category. Think marketing battles between Pepsi and Coke. Conventional Startups tend to think along the same lines.

Whereas Breakthrough Startups try to create new categories to dominate in, making sure that they are the Kings of the Category before anyone else grabs a share of the market.

In a world of marketing slogans blaring at you left and right, having your own category lets you avoid the need to seek attention to compete. All you have to do is to show people that your new category is worth it, and the market will do the rest.

“All of us, including your future customers, employees and any potential believers, live in a very confusing and noisy world. Your startup won’t have a chance to get people to remember much about you and why you matter. So you have to be really clear on what you want people to know about you and only you, why it matters and why they should join your cause. The way to do this is not to talk about jargon, buzz words, or what Christopher Lochhead calls why my carbondigulator is better. Category design is about avoiding the comparison game. It’s not about being the best, it’s about being the only one in the category.” – Mike Maples, jr.

To hear more from Mike Maples, Jr. and his insights on category design for entrepreneurs, download and listen to this episode.


Mike Maples, Jr. is the Co-Founder and Partner at Floodgate, the host of the Starting Greatness podcast and a Co-conspirator with awesome Startup Founders.


Connect with Mike!

Twitter: @m2jr

LinkedIn: in/Maples

Podcast: Starting Greatness

Website: Floodgate

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Lochhead on Marketing™! Christopher loves hearing from his listeners. Feel free to email him, connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and subscribe on Apple Podcast! You may also subscribe to his newsletter, The Difference, for some amazing content.