Starting with WHY

I’m sitting in a professional development course right now on organizational change. We are on a dinner break.

We watched a video on the importance of “starting with why”…

Simon Sinek explains how he examined successful leaders and noticed that they all had one trait in common. They started with “why” and then progressed to “how” and ended with “what”. The “why” is the problem they are looking to solve or the need they are looking to address, the “how” is their method for doing so, and the “what” is the product that accomplishes the method.

Simon uses Apple as an example of a company that starts with “why”. I thought of Amazon as another company that starts with “why”

I found an article written by Brian Stoffel entitled, “10 Reasons to buy, Inc Stock and Never Sell”…

In the article he talks about Amazon’s mission statement, “We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company,” and how this mission statement gives the company unending potential.

So I decided to look at some other mission statements. I found something interesting. Alteryx is a textbook example of a company that starts with “why” and DataDog is a textbook example of a company starting with “what”

Here is a copy/paste from Alteryx’s “About Us” page:

Companies of all sizes recognize the tremendous potential for data, but many struggle turning that data into actionable insights that improve business results. The legacy approach to analytics has slowed organizations down, requiring too many specific tools used by too many uniquely skilled people, and a high software price tag.

Every data worker, regardless of technical acumen, can be a curious problem solver. Allowing these workers to find and understand what information is at their disposal, and giving them the ability to analyze data from more sources and easily deliver business insights, is now reachable. Alteryx is revolutionizing business through data science and analytics, and we empower everyone in an organization to experience the thrill of getting to the answer faster.

Our award-winning end-to-end platform unifies the analytic experience, enabling organizations to break data barriers. The Alteryx Platform provides the analytic flexibility that business analysts, data scientists, and IT need to discover, prep, analyze, and operationalize analytic models through a collaborative and governed platform.

The first paragraph is their “why” - Data Analytics is not living up to its potential
The Second Paragraph is “how” - They will allow all data workers to easily find and understand data so they can be empowered and create insight.
The third paragraph is the “what” - their platform.

In contrast, this is from DataDog’s “About Us” page:

Datadog is the essential monitoring platform for cloud applications. We bring together data from servers, containers, databases, and third-party services to make your stack entirely observable. These capabilities help DevOps teams avoid downtime, resolve performance issues, and ensure customers are getting the best user experience.

The first sentence is “what” they sell - their monitoring platform.
The second sentence explains “how” their platform works.
The third sentence explains “why” their platform is useful.

Obviously this is a little fuzzier than analysis of each company’s revenue, competitive position, cash flow, etc. I don’t want to say that DataDog is going to fail and Alteryx is going to succeed. But I do think this is illustrative of an important way that these two companies differ in their organization and approach, and that this distinction is worthy of consideration in making investment decisions. Leadership is important and I believe that Alteryx’s leadership is truly special.


BobbyBe -

That’s an astute observation and I agree 100%. Transformational groups, teams and companies have all taken the time to define a common WHY and coalesce around it. It’s what separates the average from the good from the great in almost any setting. I’m very familiar with this video and can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a pretty powerful 18 minutes and can change the way you think about a lot of things in this world, not just the companies in which you invest.

The link again:…


Interesting take. I agree with the overall sentiment from a business perspective, however, Datadog’s “what-centric” mission statement does not necessarily mean that the Datadog team didn’t take the Why-How-What approach to developing their offering in the first place. After all, most mission statements are written by marketing folk, of whom I count myself a member. They may have wanted to lead with a “what” simply to quickly convey what the company does. I guess I’m just saying to take the mission statement with a healthy grain of salt.


In sales school we were taught to sell solutions (benefits), not features. Solutions are the “why” of the product or service. Some links…

Denny Schlesinger


Some companies don’t do as good a job with how they present their mission statement to potential customers or investors. Data Dog seems to do a better job on their glassdoor page –…

Mission: We are on a mission to bring sanity to Dev and Ops teams.

Datadog is a monitoring service for hybrid cloud applications, assisting organizations in improving agility, increasing efficiency, and providing end-to-end visibility across the application and organization. These capabilities are provided on a SaaS-based data analytics platform that enables DevOps and other teams to accelerate go-to-market efforts, ensure application uptime, and successfully complete digital transformation initiatives.

long DDOG


Not sure what is the distinction that can be teased from your example. The important thing is both have a why, a how and a what. That s good. Saying it first or last, does not show that one ‘starts’ with the why and the other with the ‘what’.

Also, people like ‘visions’ but most of the time vision is always spoken in hindsight. Bezos saw that potentiality of the ‘Internet’ at the time and the capacity to gather useful data. He wanted to sell more than only books and that led to him building the infrastructure required around that. At the time, there were many others that would have same or similar views but they didn’t bring it to what Bezos did. So we are not talking about them. They are just forgotten. We only would talk about the winners. I am sure there are now many winner characteristics in many places you look. But we all know they will not all be winners even if at this time they have the characteristics of past winners.


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