Start Up Blog

Arrogance = your opportunity

I bought this reasonably cool pair of board shorts for surfing this summer.

boardshorts

They cost me a whopping $80. Which is what I call ‘insult pricing’. It’s a pretty simple equation actually. The key players in the surfwear industry (Billabong, Quiksilver and Ripcurl) charge these prices because they can. They don’t have any ‘credible competitors’ in this board short subsegment of clothing.

In recent years surf brands have been hit by many competitors in other areas of the market which they used to ‘own’. Especially in t-shirts, from the myriad of streetwear companies, to the uber cool on-line players like Neighborhoodies and Threadless. Interestingly the shorts in this photo would cost >$5 to make. There is significant margin in the product. Such high margins often begets competitive entry into the market place.

The arrogance of said surf brands has invented an opportunity for a nimble entrepreneur to steal part of this market. And the way to do it is exactly the way Threadless have. Go online and build a community to design the uber cool boardshorts / shorts and sell them globally at a fair price. In fact, surf wear is so clichéd and over branded these days that I avoid wearing it. Most of the designs are very rank and have really lost their edge. I only use surf brands for surf equipment. The only reason I bought the pair in the photo is ‘lack of options’.

If anyone knows some one already doing it – let me know
If anyone wants to do it – let me know as well. I think it’s worth ‘investing in’.

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Tell your story – ‘Quickly’

People are very time poor, or maybe just a little impatient. Regardless of which it is we have to be able to tell our story quickly.

Vanguard Investments do it in 2 seconds. Click here to see how they do it. (Watch the animation)

Even this chart below tells the story on long term ‘index’ investing. Of which Vanguard are the founding forefathers.

vanguard-story

The recent downturn is a best a ‘blip’.

How long does your startup story take to tell? Here’s a tip – we’ve got a few seconds at most.

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People Watching

If you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve never been ‘people watching’, then start up blog strongly recommends a session. For a lot of reasons it’s a cool thing all entrepreneurs should do. For one, all our revered entrepreneurs are champion trend spotters. And they spot these trends a long time before they are reported in the Sunday newspaper lift outs.

What’s next?

Go some where busy, go somewhere where there are zillions of transactions, go somewhere sans commerce, go where families hang out, go somewhere singles hangout, look for the subgroups, watch people looking at shelves in stores – guess their decision process, see if this process is the same for all or different for all, see what they wear, see how they move, how did they get there, where are they from, bring a notepad with you and write down ideas, go places you’ve never been before…. Watch people, guess their motivations, view their life in action and then we’ll be the ones gaining life experience…. Just go and watch.

shibuya-crowd

The funny thing about our world is that we are all in it every day, but very few of us are actually paying any attention to it. Step off the stage and become the director. Make it a habit to pay attention to what is going on in our world.

As entrepreneurs and marketers we are lucky. We can do our homework everywhere we go, and our start ups are the key beneficiaries.

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Revenue

One of our jobs in business is this:

“Make it as easy as possible for people to give us their money”

It’s already hard enough to convince people to buy our product or service, so why some businesses minimize payment options is beyond me.

cash-only

photo by Mike Monteiro

Cash only, just doesn’t cut it these days. Regardless if we are on line, business to business or in retail, minimizing the payment options has this simple repercussion: It minimizes revenue.

Live example is a café in Melbourne called ‘Journal’. I had a company breakfast there and they wouldn’t accept my credit card. They even had the audacity to say ‘Who doesn’t carry cash on them?’ Answer: plenty of people. That’s fine. I’m never going there again and they missed out on around $100 this week.

Startups ought make it easy to collect revenue.

Steve – founder rentoid.com

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The Sandwich Man

Maybe you’re a great web designer

Maybe you’re a great coder

Maybe you’re a financial wizard

Maybe you’ve got a flair for industrial design

Maybe you’re a craftsman with unique skills

Maybe you’re great at managing and building a supply chain.

Maybe selling isn’t something you enjoy, like or even care about. Maybe making presentations is the part of business that really isn’t your thing.

Problem is this: There’s plenty of great ideas, businesses and people who never reached their full potential because the selling bit was missing.

Step forward the ‘Sandwich man’

Startup blog definition: Sandwich Man – a gun presenter and public communicator who presents the ideas and sells the dream on behalf of the business.

A sandwich man is called such, because he holds together all the good things like the bread does on a yummy sandwich. Without him all the ingredients, nutrition, ‘reason for being’ could all fall away.

A good sandwich man would start and close any business presentation to people like venture capitalists, suppliers, key accounts, customers and the media.

sandwich

Quite often successful businesses are run by a team where one of the members is the tech genius and the other is the Sandwich Man. Who then communicates the ideas and vision to get people on board. Rarely people are lucky enough to have both skill sets. Regardless of which skill set we have, we always need a sandwich man. We can even bring one into the team on a needs basis.

But without one, we may end up with a great product or business which never gets the traction it deserves.

Beer is the new wine

I recently had some beers and a meal at a place called Little Creatures dinning hall in Melbourne Australia.

For the uninitiated, Little Creatures is a craft beer which has it’s origins in Australia and has recently opened a flagship ‘dinning hall’ – seen below.

little-creatures-dinning-hall

They’ve simply taken this to a new level. I’m not taking about the fact that they have weird and groovy beer flavours, all naturally brewed. I’m talking about the way they take you on a personal journey with their service.

My favourtie was the beer education programme. They have a ‘pony show’ – I don’t think it’s called that, but it is what I’ll call it for this post.

You get a taste in little groovy pony glasses of all their different beers, then choose one you like. One of their ‘Little Creatures Beer Experts’ comes and sits down on your table with you and they explain all the different types of beers. A real sit down for 10 minutes. A rare treat when the usual sitiation is waiting 10 minutes for crappy service in bars and restuarants. They teach you how to taste each beer and the slight nuances of each. They even provide an idea what type of people generally like the different types.

pony-show

It’s really nice and fun. I even heard the word “sessionable” to describe a beer – They invent some nice jargon to make you feel part of a tribe. Cool.

No need to advertise this little venture. We’ll do that for them….

And this is what cool startups are doing in retail.

Needle in a haystack & websites

While thinking about web front page design, yesterday Cyber Guru Ross Hill had this to say:

“To find a needle in a haystack, one doesn’t have to burn the haystack, just make sure the needle lies on top of it.

If our people can’t find it. Then quite simply it isn’t there. It doesn’t exist, and they may not return. After all that hard work to get them here, that’d be a real shame.

This is why our homepage designs must rock

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2nd worst shop front of all time

I took this pic of this shop front / side in my local neighbourhood. It’s easy to see when you drive past.

hexworks

Startup blog prize (free book) for anyone who can tell me what they do without calling the number (or knowing someone who works there / digging around).

I’m all for single minded simplicity, but if we are going to go to the effort to paint the brand and phone number, it’s also handy to have a tag line which tells people what we do.

Steve – rentoid.com

Simple Innovation

When we think about innovation, our minds get lost in big ideas and large investment. The Space shuttle, Electric cars, desalination plants, the Airbus A380. We’ve been influenced by mainstream business media, and the military industrial complex. As entrepreneurs we’d be much better placed to think as micro as possible when considering how to innovate. Because unless we are ‘inventers’ or ‘engineers’, the only innovations we need to care about are those which get to market.

Take this simple innovation from the publishing industry.

magazine-subscription

Magazine subscriptions which have been repacked to be sold in a new / yet existing distribution channel.

Before this shift in mindset, magazine subscriptions were only sold as in magazine leaflets, through call centers and via door knocking. Enter new packaging format, and all of sudden a magazine subscription is being retailed in newsagents and bookstores (This photo was taken in Borders). It becomes a simple ‘gift’ which provides us something we can hand ‘hand over’ to the recipient to touch and hold – we can even gift wrap it. It opens new revenue possibilities.

It’s clear that there is little capital expenditure with this innovation,  which is simply a widening of distribution. In fact – new forms of distribution are often the most profitable innovations.

Start ups – When innovating, think micro.

Steve – founder rentoid.com

Tough times

In tough times, operating in a non revenue generating business gets difficult. All your business may even dry up.

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It doesn’t mean these activites aren’t important, it’s more a reflection of human behaviour. Unless the link of the activity to the transaction is clear – it will get pulled. This is true for consulting, marketing budgets or even your job.  So the question we then must ask is this – how close are we to where money changes hands? Are we close to the transaction or in the backroom somewhere?

The further say we are from the money – the greater redundency exposure we have, in business and employment. Closeness to money is why many real estate agents who are often intellectual dodo’s still make big dollars. I’m sure you can think other examples too.

If you want to be an indispensable business partner in tough times, make sure you are close to the money.

Steve – founder rentoid.com

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