Getting to "yes" in a world of "no"…


The longer I work in the world of startups, the more I realise that most revolutionary inventions have to be delivered to their markets wrapped up in equally radical business models for them to succeed at scale. And the reasons for this are many and varied:-

  • If your new widget is half the price of existing widgets, by putting it on the same shelves as them you run the risk of its being seen as a me-too cheap Chinese clone quality-killer (by end-users) or a make-less-per-sale-on-that margin-killer (by retailers). Yet by finding a different route to market to your competitors that your new widget’s dramatically lower price-point enables (say, corner shops, service stations, mobile phone shops, etc), you can get to walk all over your competition.
  • If your new widget has 2x or 3x the working life of existing widgets, by putting it on the same shelves as them you run the risk of its being seen as a mystifying product variant (by end-users) or a sale-complexifying variant (by retailers). Yet if you instead give your new widgets away and live handsomely off the super-long support contracts, you can get to walk all over your competition.
  • If your new widget is 2x or 3x as powerful as existing widgets, by putting it on the same shelves as them you run the risk of being seen as a “Rolls Royce” (by end-users who are looking for Mondeos) or as an overfancy version of what’s already on sale (by retailers). Yet if you find a real-world application that that extra power suddenly makes possible and can get it to people’s attentions by other retail channels, you can get to walk all over your competition.
  • If your new widget is far, far more configurable than existing widgets, by putting it on the same shelves as them you run the risk of being seen as a confusing product variant (by customers) or an unnecessary support headache (by retailers). Yet if you build an online scripting forum and active user community around it, you can build a direct connection with your market and so walk around the the need for retailers at all.

Hence if you are running an innovative startup, remember that on its own your invention is no more than a pair of shoes. But if you find a route to market & a business model that actively reflects the key difference they have over the competition, then they become a pair of boots that can walk all over your competition. Hence any time you need some direction, let Nancy Sinatra (or Jessica Simpson, if you really insist, *sigh*) show you the right way forward for your young business:

“These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”

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