A simple Amazon strategy every business can implement

Jeff Bezos Genius

The future is a pesky little thing to predict. Much of it will surprise us no matter how well versed we are in emerging technology. A lot will change 10 years from now in ways we just couldn’t imagine. But, some things won’t change, and it is easy to know what these things are. So much so that this is a key question Amazon leader Jeff Bezos bases large parts of business strategy on:

“What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?…. You can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time…. In our retail business, we know that our customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want a vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says; ‘Jeff, I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible.”

And it is clear to see that while they use technology to make these things possible, the future is predictable and something Amazon or any business can build their strategy and infrastructure around. Jeff said this 4 years ago at the Amazon Web Services forum. With 40% of that 10 year window expired, and I’d say it’s all still true. Seems he has predicted the future, just by flipping the question.

So the only question remaining for your business or startup is this: What things can you be working on that just won’t change?

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How to Start Small to Grow a #MASSIVE Company

One of my totally favourite projects is working with Pollenizer getting startups off the ground and doing corporate venturing. The biggest challenge many entrepreneurs and pretty much every big company trying to get internal startups going is understanding why small is beautiful. Unless the initial business is small enough to test, weird enough to get attention, and easy enough to try in an analogue fashion, then we’ll never get off the ground. We need to think #antiMASSIVE first.

Here’s some of my thoughts on the topic.

 

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Is this the worst product innovation ever?

Wetsuit business suit

If the Quiksilver bedding wasn’t enough, Quiksilver have done it again and introduced possibly the worst, most ill conceived product in surfing history.

The Wetsuit Suit. Yes you read that right, a wetsuit designed in the shape of a business suit. I can only hope that this is some kinda hoax – and even if it is, it surely isn’t worth the effort and ridicule?

The first question that comes to mind is why? Did someone not get the memo that the water is a place we escape the corporate grind.

The second question that comes to mind is why? It would simply never perform as well as a skin hugging wetsuit designed specifically for surfing, or a fitted Hugo Boss.

The third question that comes to mind is why? It takes all of 5 minutes to change out of a wetsuit…. but that’s right, Joey Corporate Surfer must too important to waste even 5 minutes.

The fourth question also happens to be why?  I imagine it will be super comfortable wearing a wetsuit as the salt dries and itches your skin and you’ve got sand up your bum during a power meeting with your boss in your Quiksilver work wetsuit….

Why, why, why? It is incomprehensible. Maybe the Private Equity firm Oaktree Capital  Management who took over the company this year knows why? They’d want to, or the $600 they invested to take the company out of bankruptcy (it still has $300m debt) might be kinda hard to recoup.

This folly was best summarised by Surfer Magazine:

Don’t you just wish you never had to change in and out of that stinky old wetsuit of yours? Well consider your prayers answered! Presenting the oh-so-literal wet suit by Quiksilver. Because how many times have you wished you could just live in one outfit for the entire day? And seriously, who wouldn’t want a soggy crotch while sitting though a budget meeting? Well, logistics aside, this is happening. Quiksilver Japan is apparently onto a market that the majority of us had no idea existed – which consists of businessmen who wish they could just go straight from the water to the conference room all while looking like colossal tools? Sure!

With all the incredulity aside, it shows a company who doesn’t know their customers at all. A company out of touch with why they originally succeeded. A company which is focused on the wrong side of where work society and technology is taking us.

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A business model for every startup

Flying Dog

Here’s a simple business model which should be built into every startup.

Ways to make money using technology which is not available today.

The possibilities of connection are changing so rapidly these days it is quite possible that the way we make money in a few years, is not even technically possible today. The startup may invent the technical possibility, or leverage an emerging possibility for the community they are building. Either way, the path is simple – startups need to ensure that their future revenue streams consider a future possibility, not just the reality of today.

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What business are we really in?

Old music tape

The business we are in is the problems we solve, not the product we sell. During times of great technological upheaval, problems get solved in new and unexpected ways.  This is how companies get disrupted. The single way to ensure any business remains valid is this:

We must always love our customer more than we love our infrastructure. 

If we truly do this, then we’ll be able to endure the pain required during the inevitable transition.

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The type of thinking needed in exponential times

Busy road with fumes

If you could choose a house on a busy road, or a quiet road in the same suburb, and price was not an issue, the choice is simple – the quiet road wins every time. And we all know why – less pollution, less noise, less danger. Oh, and quieter streets are usually nicer to look at. The prices of real estate reflect this. A house of similar quality on a busier road can be as much as 50% cheaper.

So here’s a question worth thinking about: What happens to those property prices when all cars have electric engines, and they don’t have tail pipes? You guessed it – there is almost no noise and no localised pollution. Surely then, the prices of houses in busy streets will go up and bridge the existing pricing gap somewhat. In the next 10 years significant amounts of money will be made in property by arbitraging the positive impact of electric cars.

It’s economic plays like this that are easy to see once we start thinking about the impact of the technology, and not the technology itself.

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Software is eating the world – and surfing

The picture below is of surfboard fins. These days they are not permanently attached to the surfboard, but screw in. This allows surfers to change fin sizes and shape for different surf, it also allows you to travel with out busting them.

3D Printed Surfboard fins

The fins on the left come from a company called FCS and they retail for $140. The fins on the right came off a 3D printer and cost exactly zero dollars, well maybe $3 in raw in materials. In general fins sell for between $100 and $200.

Sure the FCS fins on the left look fancy and are made from carbon fibre, the 3D printed versions above are various plastics, but in many ways they are better. I can print fins quickly and cheaply with varying degrees of flex. I can print fins with more flex at the top and less at the bottom, I can even add other technology to the fins like a GPS, to track my surfing without wearing a bulky watch. I can customise my design on my fins, the colour, create personal branding anything, sell my designs to other surfers….the options are endless, and the cost is negligible. That said, I can print fins in carbon fibres, light metals and pretty much any material I want.

It won’t be long before the days of buying expensive fins are over. 

These fin companies are less than 20 years old, and unless they facilitate 3D printing of their product, they’ll be disrupted – maybe me and my new surfing company Sneaky Surf. Mind you this company (FCS) was recently bought by Surf Stitch for $23.7 million. I hope they get their money back quick or it will be a classic diworsification. If they paid a 10 times price earning ratio, they’ll never get their money back. I reckon within 3 years no one will buy fins again.

If you make any widget like the example above, or buy them, then the time is now to move to 3D printed versions. You don’t even need to own a printer – there are plenty of startups on line who can print your designs for you and ship them to you customers. GO – this opportunity to dematerialise a category (like music was dematerialised) is big. We all know that software is eating the world – Make it happen in your industry.

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