The art of adding features to any product or service is this:
Those who need or want the new features can find them easy.
Meanwhile those who don’t need or want the features don’t even notice them. They are invisible.
Sounds impossible to do, but I think the team at twitter are doing a pretty good job of it. The way I’d try and achieve this would be by making sure the visual structure doesn’t change, and the sequence of events to use it is not interrupted.
shhh – here comes the controversy.
It costs the soft drink Industry over $100 million a year for thefts committed involving vending machines.
*actual Coke vending robots!
Yet vending machines still exist for one simple reason. This is still a profitable business regardless of the theft.
So often in startup land we here people pointing out the gaps and potential issues in any business model we propose. The fact is no business model is perfect. Every business has gaps and potential issues which will impact profitability. There is always leakage, there is always some evaporation. What we need to focus on is the net result and understand if we can still make a profit regardless of the model imperfections.
I had this discussion yesterday. I walked past a hole in the wall cafe. (Tiny cafe which serves take away and stand up coffee in inner city area)
Friend: Wasn’t Joey going to open a business like that?
Me: Yeh, I remember him talking about it before I had even seen one of these in the city.
Friend: What happened to it?
Me: I don’t know, I guess he just didn’t get around to it in the end. Got distracted.
Friend: That’s a shame, looks like a good little business model. What’s he doing now?
Me: He’s in the same job.
Friend: Oh. Ok.
We keep walking …
Don’t be Joey. It at least try and fail. The old job will be waiting for you if you have to return.
Think back to grade 9 school. Specifically your science classes. In science we had a specific method of learning:
Aim / Objective
(back to start)
The thing that the science community do much better than the business world is that they know that the really powerful part of the system is the actual experiment. When scientists speak we hear them talking about the experiments, not aims and methods. The experiement is the focus – not the plans and paper work. This is something the business community must take heed from. It is beyond me why the business world obsess with the aim (forecasts) and the method (business plans). The truth is we’ll never know until the experiment is done.
As entrepreneurs it’s compounded again. We’ve got to experiment more than existing businesses with real revenue. We’ve got to do this because we have no results or conclusions which have formed a refined aim or hypothesis. So the more experiments we do, the more robust our hypothesis becomes. Until we experiment we wont really now what materials we need (which in the business world is referred to as resources). Constant planning refinement is as useless as constant refinement of an experiment method would be. Our focus instead must be repeated experimentation.
It’s only when we do this that our startup has a chance of graduating to become a bone fide business.
As entrepreneurs the natural temptation is on inventing new markets. Creating dramatic change and going for the trophy ideas. This stuff is incredibly difficult, which is why when we do it well the financial rewards can be significant. The interesting thing is that by being optimists with big ideas we really develop some amazing skills just trying. Regardless of our success or lack of.
Creating markets is much harder than getting a share of an existing market. There’s so much more to do to make it work. Things like building an entirely new supply chain, accessing unique raw materials, developing distributions channels and educating consumers of the benefits of this alternative.
Imagine for a moment that we focused our skills on something simple. Something for which there is already existing demand. A market with which there has been very little innovation for a long period of time. Imagine for example…. selling potatoes.
Selling potatoes would not be as difficult as inventing entirely new markets. Sure there would be incumbents in the game, maybe some very powerful players. But the one thing we can be sure of, is that people do business with people they like. Every industry has room for new players. Every business has some suppliers which they are not happy with. Imagine bringing some new world thinking into the potato trade. Integrating some Cluetrain ideas into this business, and really winning over some customers by doing things just a little differently. There is a new business waiting to happen in boring old market.
pic by Peter VanAllen
I often think that we ignore old areas because they are sexy enough, when all we need do is bring some new ideas in to sexy it up. And there is nothing more sexy than financial success in start up land. In addition our probability of success is certainly larger in an existing market than developing a new one, even if the financial gain is smaller. Maybe we can garner some success Selling potatoes first, before we try our trophy idea. It’s easy to be better than it is to be new.
Maybe your next business should be selling potatoes.
She gave me some great insights into entrepreneurship and here are some of the sound bites I was so compelled with I had to write them down.
“When asking for input into your business or startup, never ask for more that 2 pieces of advice. Ask them for advice which is both perceptual and low cost.”
‘Think about your business in terms of the sequence of events. This is more important than the model itself.”
“The right words, in a certain order, make people do stuff.”
“Free creates lose caboose behavior. Think of your business like a nightclub. Free entry makes us feel as though what’s inside isn’t as valuable as when there is a cover charge.”
‘What can you do to bring the money forward? It might be as easy as asking your customers.”
‘What are the steps to money? How can you reduce the number of steps?”
Absolute gold as far as startup blog is concerned. Fiona has also written a book called ‘Niche Content Millionaire’ which I’m guessing (I haven’t read it yet) is full of awesome ideas…. simply because she has the runs on the board and has done it.
Startup blog says: Only take advice from those who have the done what they espouse.
Local Australia firm fosters brewing has a popular brewery tour at their Melbourne plant (you get a free beer at the end of it) as does Media conglomerate NBC in the Rockerfella Centre in New York. None of this is free, and they are all fully booked pretty much every day. The thing that is almost as powerful as the cash such Industrial Tourism generates, is the relationship it builds with the brand.
It is pretty cool to be taken into the ‘secret back room’, even though we can all be pretty sure that Boeing or any large conglomerate are not about to give away any secrets on said tours. But this is where startups and SME’s can do it even better. We can let our early adopters into our Factory, Alpha testing, Retail back room, Warehouse, New Product Development session. We can let them expose our secret goodness to the market for us. Especially if we do something awesome like make great software, use recycled materials or anything creative.
So the question for startups is this: How can we let our early adopters and brand evangalists into our secret world to spread our world?
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I know I am being a bit of a dog with a bone here. But we really need to put this ‘Free’ stupidity to rest once and for all. Sure it’s semantics, but this is what the Free model really is:
Delayed Revenue Model
If we have a so called ‘Free’ model, we are simply providing resources (at out cost) in order to extract revenue through alternative means later, or via a trade sale to incumbents who see value in what we have created. In both cases the ultimate goal is Revenue.
In many ways it’s riskier to go down the free track, simple because time and money are inextricably linked. If we don’t end up ‘Monetizing’ (another word I hate) then we are simply in the wealth transfer business.