Two Battle Grounds in Business and Entrepreneurship
Today, there is massive ‘warfare’ going on on two fronts in entrepreneurship and business. On one front, we have very many would be entrepreneurs and innovators pulling all stops to bring to the world the next Facebook, or Apple, or Twitter. There is no stop of Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists seeking to fund and be part of the next biggest ‘disruption’. Day in and out, the search continues.
That should be a welcome relief to many who have ideas that they are dreaming to bring to life. I have seen ideas being funded that really were a no-brainer. I have seen countless startups attracting massive investments, and these startups really did not come up with some rocket science innovation or disruption.
“I Could Do that too!”
A good example is a Startup that I know received hoards of Millions of Dollars from Magic Johnson and other Investors in ‘Seed Money’. The startup is for ‘Diversity’, enabling Blacks and Hispanics to get jobs at Wall Street, as well as enabling companies at Wall Street to get access to these prospective employees from this races. When I saw the amount of funding they had attracted, I thought to myself, “I could do that too!!” And their story is not complicated. They were in a market where they saw a ‘need’ and went out to create something to meet that need.
Gregg Habstreet of “engagedentrepreneur.com” (now defunct) gives a powerful description of an entrepreneur:
““If you look at the translation of entrepreneur, it comes from French and really, entrepreneur means someone who grasps or seizes an opportunity to take… You know, “preneur” means to take and “entre” means either to enter or between. My definition of the entrepreneur is someone who sees the opportunities between what already exists. In other words they see the gaps, they see the opportunities and entrepreneurs are the ones that create something out of nothing”.
We all know that we need to answer the following questions:
- Do the customers want it?
- How big is the Market?
- Is there a Profit?
- Is there technology to develop it?
If we can answer this questions and please “Magic Johnson” in the process and get seed money then we are on the path of winning in this first battle. This battle has seen many discouragements, many “startups” that have tanked and many dreams that have been shattered. The struggle must continue anyway. I believe that even if we do not succeed in this phase, we still would have learnt a great deal and would be on the brink of a breakthrough if we tried one more time.
The Second Battle
Where the rubber meets the road however is when you have already succeeded in phase one, but you need to sustain your business in phase 2. Paradoxically, sustaining is the biggest recipe for failing to catch a new trend and cash in on it. I always site the example of NOKIA. In the year 2000, if you owned a Nokia 3310 (those that would never break and had battery lifespan of 5 days), you had arrived! What went wrong for NOKIA?
One of the biggest impediments of of embracing new ideas, new markets and new technologies is the need to remain ‘in service’ to the existing customers. Sustaining these customers through continuously serving their needs is the biggest recipe for failure.
Focus on Opportunities More than You Focus on Management
In order to remain relevant and on the cutting edge, one must be sharply alert of not the customers that you have, but those that you do not. I read a story where a visionary CEO moved a Manager whose department accounted for 90% of the company’s revenue to a department that accounted only 1% or even less of that company’s revenue: The Overseas Department. It turns out that that move was a stroke of Genius. Why? Because the company’s survival was a function of sticking their neck out and staking their biggest bet on their Opportunities, and not just the management of existing customers and their problems
You thought Innovation and Ideation stopped when “Magic Johnson” gave you the seed money? Think again. It is another frontier that you must continue to conquer. For you to do this, you must be able to account for and embrace ever changing trends of technology as well as customer needs. You do not just innovate once.