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Playing Bigger: Announcing Two New Partners and Keynote at Monty ‘24: How Contenders Become Kings


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Jason Wellcome and Mike Bruno


Play Bigger Expands Leadership Team with Appointment of Two New Partners

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Jason Wellcome and Mike Bruno as partners, effective immediately. This strategic move strengthens our firm's leadership team and underscores our commitment to delivering unparalleled category design expertise to companies across diverse industries.

Wellcome and Bruno bring decades of industry experience including three years at Play Bigger, where they have honed their skills in designing and dominating new market categories. They have both played pivotal roles in numerous engagements, guiding founders and executive teams through the intricacies of category design, from identifying the problem and who has it to crafting a solution and ultimately  activation through Lightning Strikes. Their deep understanding of the category design methodology, coupled with their proven track record of success, makes them invaluable additions to the Play Bigger leadership team.

“Jason and Mike have consistently demonstrated exceptional talent and commitment to the success of our companies," said Al Ramadan, Founder & CEO of Play Bigger. "Their elevation to partner reflects their leadership and significant contributions to the firm. We are confident that they will play a critical role in helping us scale our impact and empower even more companies to achieve category leadership."

This announcement signifies Play Bigger’s continued commitment to attracting and cultivating top talent. With the addition of Wellcome and Bruno, our firm strengthens its position as a trusted advisor for founders and investors alike seeking to disrupt entire industries and create enduring, outsized returns.


Keynote: Investing in Category Contenders

We were excited to join more than 1,200 investors, founders and executives in Santa Monica on March 5th & 6th at the Montgomery Summit to discuss our Category Investment Strategy called Category Contenders

Our research identifying 200 Category Contenders helped set the backdrop. But the focus was to go beyond identifying Contenders and highlight their transition to category leaders, and how investors and founders can improve their odds of crossing this divide. 

From Contender to King: The Crucial Transformation in Category Design

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While the allure of Category Kings lies in their disruptive leadership position, it’s the transition to becoming the undisputed leader where the battle for three quarters of a category’s market cap happens. This journey requires a delicate balance between strategy, change management and all-in commitment, transforming not just a company's logo or offerings, but its very core.

Capturing the Problem-Mindshare Advantage:

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To truly become the category leader, Contenders must transcend mere product positioning and salesmanship. They need to become the champion of the problem, educating and engaging target customers i.e. those who have the problem. Most often it’s about a problem people didn’t know they had or one they didn’t think could be solved. This shift in focus requires a deep understanding of the problem's impact and the needs of those it affects.

Beyond Brand and Positioning, a Company-Wide Transformation:

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The transition from Contender to King or Queen isn't just about a marketing campaign or a product feature launch. It's a company-wide transformation. Every department, from marketing to sales to customer service needs to embrace the new category vision and align their efforts towards its success. This cultural shift requires strong executive leadership, clear communication and a commitment to being different, not simply better.  

The Emergence of Strike Ops:

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The rise to category leader doesn't happen overnight. It requires all-in sprints that disrupt the market and solidify the Contender's dominant position. These catalyzing moments in time, what we call Lightning Strikes, can be product launches that exceed expectations, user conferences galvanizing entire movements, or PR initiatives that rewrite the industry script. Each strike needs to be impactful, strategically timed and aligned with the overall category vision.

Lessons From the Field:

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For this talk we examined three companies: Qualtrics, ClearMetal and Cloudflare and offer valuable lessons on the category creation process and associated change management. These examples remind us that the transition from Contender to King requires not just a great product, but a compelling narrative, a deep understanding of the problem, and a willingness to both disrupt and adapt. It's about building a movement around the category, not just selling a solution. The most successful Contenders become the voice of the problem, the trusted partner in its resolution, and ultimately, the undisputed leader. 

The Audacious Reward:

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The journey from contending for to dominating a new market is challenging, demanding unwavering commitment and a willingness to navigate the unknown. However, the rewards are undeniably significant. Category Queens enjoy market share dominance (3/4 of the category market cap), premium valuations, and the satisfaction of shaping the future of their chosen industry. They become the benchmark, the standard against which others are measured.

Investing in Contenders

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So, if you're ready to back the visionaries who dare to redefine markets and choose to create instead of compete, understand that the transition from Contender to King is the crucial turning point. It's a journey of transformation, demanding strategic foresight, unwavering commitment, and a willingness to champion the problem as much as the solution. Most importantly, you can play a crucial advisor role in this transition by understanding the process and the change management required to achieve it. 

Watch Al Ramadan's full keynote from Monty ‘24 here.

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And if you want to go even deeper on the topic, this recent conversation between Christopher and Al recorded for Lochhead on Marketing Episode 195 is rich with new deep cut insights and examples. 

Thank You!

The Play Bigger Team

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