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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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

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

Your worst nightmare

From a competitive viewpoint, imagine for a moment that our worst business nightmare came true.

Maybe Google decides to enter our market space. Or the Coca Cola Company launched a beverage with the same consumer benefit we’ve been bootstrapping. Or large company X decided to compete against “us” head on.

nuclear-explosion

Well – you’d be surprised how that feels. How it makes us react, and how it very quickly changes our perspective on what is the most important element in ‘winning’. In competing effectively for our share of wallet.

All of a sudden many of the projects we are investing our time on seem far less important than they were yesterday. Maybe that front page redesign can wait, maybe the shiny new web 2.0 buttons are a little less important. Maybe our packaging will do for now and quite possibly every project we have on the agenda, excluding customer ‘centric projects’ can be put on hold.

Here’s an exercise worth doing with your team. Act as if. Act as if it has just happened. Have an ‘emergency session’ with your team on how you’d react if a more well resourced, financed and well known competitor came to play. Build your battle plan. Once your battle plan is drawn up – throw out your current business plan and work on that instead. Because they are coming, especially if your startup is in a fertile consumer territory.

After the intital fear, most entrepreneurs just get inspired, get angry and get on with it. A good scare never hurt anyone.

Steve – founder rentoid.com

Evernote.com – great home page

Posted in brands, business, design, entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, marketing, startups, web 2.0, websites by Steve Sammartino on November 7, 2008

Here’s a visual from the website for www.evernote.com which has a super home page. Clean, clear simple communicaiton of what they do.

evernote

I use it on my iphone and it rocks. Get on it.

Steve – founder rentoid.com

Belief – from ‘Tribes’

I took this quote from Seth Godins latest micro book Tribes:

“Do you beleive in what you do? Every day? It turns out that belief happens to be a brilliant strategy”

This resonates with me because it will motivate us to find solutions that ‘non believers’ will be too inept, apathetic or bored to uncover.

Entrepreneurs ought launch something they beleive in conceptually, not just financially.

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Quote for Entrepreneurs

“It has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?”

Zach de la Rocha

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Outsourcing – Visuals vs Backend

As webpreneurs we all now employ offshore coders to develop sites using super cool resources like Odesk and Elance. The process is a simple one. But just like all things good, there are some catches. Here’s some advice from someone whose done, does it and occasionally avoids it.

The main thing you need is patience and very considered briefs. When there is a language barrier, ideas and words can be taken very literally.

Our experience is that some (not all) offshore IT practioners are indifferent with ‘visual’ requirements. Maybe it’s a cultural implication. And there are many things we’ve had done much better offshore, like finding creative solutions to technical problems. We’ve worked with some great creative bootstrappers. But it’s clear that more developed markets put a much higher value on ‘aesthetics‘. So we get all our rentoid visuals done locally, while we outsource alot of our backend work. It’s akin to a convenience store you might see in India, there just not quite as pretty as those in Australia and the USA. See below.

Western Convenience Store

Convenience Store India

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