Start Up Blog

We’re not that unique

Posted in architecture by Steve Sammartino on February 16, 2011

New ideas for businesses are generally because we see a gap in the market. We consider not if there is a market in that gap. People are very often focused on solving imaginary problems that other people have. The key clue in all of this is when people use language to the effect of:

‘They will like it’ … ‘There’s a real market for it’ … ‘People will love it’ …

It’s all about others because there isn’t a market and there isn’t a problem. If it was a real problem we would want to solve it for ourselves. We wouldn’t have to talk about others. And if it was a problem that we had, there is a very good chance that others might be facing the same problem. Because the truth is, we are not nearly as unique as we think we are. Which means that there is a good chance other people want what we want. As humans our needs, wants and problems are very often replicated. We should start the process of a new business with this sentence;

I want this product / service because….

If it’s not good enough for us, it’s not good enough for them. If we aren’t into it, we’ll lose interest in it. If we build something we dig, our worst case scenario is that we’ve solved our original problem.

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Nature or Nurture?

I noticed this morning that a particular area of my box hedge isn’t growing as well as other areas. See the two photos below.

hedge1 hedge2

In order to remedy the situation I thought about what the different things I could do:

  1. Ensure the poor performing area was getting enough water
  2. Make sure the soil wasn’t poisoned in that particular area of the garden
  3. Remove the weeds from the periphery
  4. Add some fertiliser to the struggling area
  5. Aerating the soil with a hoe
  6. Ensure the area is getting enough sun

In fact, I’ll try the methods above. What I wont do is ‘remove’ the box hedge. I really need it because it forms part of the garden perimeter. It provides the required symmetry. It’s an integral part of the garden. I will give it the extra attention it deserves, and talk to it. I won’t pretend it will fix itself, because I know that is just a fantasy.

So, why do we take the opposite view with our staff / employees or business partners? We rarely ask first what we can do, and most often just ‘cut them out’, get rid of them, or even chastise their performance, before we look at the reasons for it. Maybe they:

  1. Aren’t getting enough cash to do their part?
  2. Maybe their part of the organisation has structural issues?
  3. Maybe they have non functional ‘hangers on’ stealing time & resources?
  4. Maybe we need to invest in some training or programs to boost the area?
  5. Maybe we need to give them more space & freedom to perform?
  6. Maybe we are not providing enough reward & recognition?

You’ve probably noticed how many of our people problems have strong analogies to my box hedge. In fact, both nature and people, need nurturing.

Steve – founder rentoid.com

Company Mantra – It’s in the game!

While watching a documentary on the evolution of video games I heard the coolest company mantra ever.

It was from EA sports, the gaming company which focused on creating games which closely represented the real thing. More important for startups was how they got there. One of the key developers came up with the internal motto “if it’s in the game, it’s in the game”. This later evolved to be the brand tagline “It’s in the game!”

EA went the extremes to put everything ‘in the game’. Some of these extremes include:

  • Getting the actual TV commentators to do voice overs on the games
  • Licensing teams, sporting organizations brands & players
  • Getting the actual athletes in the studio to get each players exact movements

The result being amazingly realistic games. Amazing games which wouldn’t have been possible without the mantra – a mantra which simply did not accept compromise.

rooney3

Mantra is only powerful if we embrace it in every thing we do. EA sports did and went on to be a $4 billion US company with large profit margins.

What is your startup mantra?

steve – founder rentoid.com

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Mass customization

Here’s a few categories or Industries which have been revolutionized by Mass Customization:

 

T-shirts (Threadless & Neighborhoodies)

TV (Youtube & Joost)

Handbags (Elemental Threads)

Journalism (Blogs & podcasting)

Newspapers (RSS)

Job Seeking (Aggregation & feeds)

Book publishing (Lulu)

Tourism (the web in general)

Luxury goods (fractional ownership)

Music (itunes)

Networking (facebook & social apps)

 

In fact there’s just too many to mention.

 

But the real question is this: If it hasn’t hit your industry yet, why not and what are you doing about it?

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Great Quote

“Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”

 

Timothy Ferriss

 

Startup blog agrees, and adds – if we blame our employers for the above, there’s no locks on the door…. and we’re still being lazy.

Reliability

4.17pm - Get email from friend advising of a small bug on rentoid.com

 

4.17pm - I email my main guy from my tech team to ask him to check it out  

4.21pm -  I receive email from my tech guy saying – bug fixed please check it!   

4.23pm - I email my friend advising that it’s all fixed saying – ‘my guy is quick.’ 

4.25pm - Friend emails me back saying “..Wow… that’s amazing.” Blog worthy!! 

As above.

Never underestimate the power strong relationships within supply chains. Strong relationships build efficient supply chains – not the other way around.

Fun parks and CBD’s

In reality there are two ways we can define websites. They’re either Fun Parks or Central Business Districts.

Startup blog definitions: 

Fun park: A website which is primarily in existence for the entertainment of its users. A place to enjoy, socialize, have fun and waste time.

Central Business District (CBD): A website which has a commercial function from it’s inception and is essentially there to assist people in trade.

Examples of each include:

Fun parks CBD’s

Youtube

Ebay

Facebook

Paypal

Flickr

Amazon

Hot or not

Lulu

Sure, there’s some overlap, but it’s the insights behind the two variants that matter.

roller-coaster.gif   businessman-drawing.jpg

Fun parks are ‘fun’. They’re easy to use and addictive in nature. They tend to spread quicker and go viral because there’s less risk. We’re not being asked to spend money, just enjoy the rides. So the fun park fills up quickly, gets popular and the owners monetize them by selling advertising billboards to all the eyeballs in the fun park. Eventually the park becomes overcrowded and people start to leave. They tend to have a rotating user base.

CBD’s are useful. Sometimes fun, but usually more serious and offer ‘value’. The commercial function is built in to the site, hence it doesn’t need to ‘monetize’ itself. People tend to investigate more, take longer to put their name down and join site. But once the do, they often become evanaglists and do the marketing for the site. They build more slowly, maybe take years, but usually end up with a more loyal user base. And rightfully end up more profitable. (profit as defined by yield)

Both are valid, both are evolving. If you’re a start up, it just pays to know which category you fit into.

The difference between ‘Innovation & Different’

While watching entrepreneurs pitch their business earlier this week at the Pitch Club in Melbourne Australia, and colleague and I were disappointed at what some people believe to be innovation.

   

Shannon from Shannon says and I agreed that what many people call innovation is simply – different.

Here’s a clear delineation of the two which is a startup blog mashup of multiple dictionary definitions.

Different: unlike in form, quality, amount, or nature. Distinct or separate. Unusual or differing from others.

  

Innovation: a creation, new device or process. The result of study and or experimentation which improves the desired outcome / usage of said device, process or creation.

 butter-stick.jpg 

Sometimes we only need to understand the true meaning of our words to determine if we are ‘on track’.

This ain’t no disco

 this-aint-no-disco.png  

This is where we work…

As a follow up to my office space blog entry here’s a web site that can do a far better job of displaying cool offices than I can. aintnodisco.com

Click to check it out.

Office space

Which space would we rather work in?

 This..    

cubicle-farm3.jpg 

or these?

 cool-work-spaces.png 

* click to enlarge

 

(the leggo dudes don’t look very happy to me) 

      

Sure some of these spaces are less efficient (read cost more). But it doesn’t have to be that way…. in any case, how cost efficient is an uninspired and bored workforce whose only thought is getting to the punch clock on time?

   

When our startups leave the kitchen, it doesn’t mean we need to act like the company we left.

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