You’re right. There’s a lot of them out there – I’ve checked. So why am I adding to the pile?
Over the last 15 years or so a lot has changed – my first big contract in my first startup was with Ryanair for the development of their website. I was still in school at the time, which caught the attention of the media and served as a great big break, for which I’ll always be thankful. This was back in the day when most companies didn’t have a website. It was before the dot com crash. The vast majority of people connected to the internet on 56.6 kbps modems at best. Dark days indeed!
Since then the world has changed completely – the vast majority of travel is now booked online, social media is endemic, we use apps and connected devices all the time, we stream our entertainment content. And most people don’t have time to boil the kettle while waiting for an email to download. What’s also changed is what’s involved in building a startup business. It costs a fraction of what it did even five years ago to build a software product, web tool or app, and the cloud combined with infrastructure such as the app stores, enables innovative startups to bring their idea to the masses and scale relatively cheaply and easily. The flip side of this is that those who provide funding to enable these startups to scale are now demanding significant market traction before agreeing to part with their cash, which is understandable when looking at it from their perspective.
This is where I’ve seen the problem. And this is why I decided to start this blog.
Most startups are so focused on the development of their technology and product that the fundamental commercial viability of the idea isn’t considered in enough detail until later on, or is paid only lip service. They may have built what they consider to be their minimum viable product (MVP), gone to market and even had some traction. Everything looks rosy. That is until the V.C. or other funding partner starts pulling the idea apart and everyone realises that you’ll require a Facebook-esque number of users before seeing a penny of profit. It’s potentially months/years of your time and money wasted, and it was so easily avoidable.
Commercialisation strategy and execution is by far the most important thing to consider for the overwhelming majority of startups. It doesn’t matter how innovative and cutting-edge the technology is if nobody is going to pay for it, they won’t pay enough, the budget you need is assigned to something else more important, you can’t afford to tell them about it, or you require such enormous scale before you hit profitability that most funders will consider you too risky and opt to put their cash into another startup team.
I think a lot of the problem actually goes back to the education system – particularly in Ireland, where little or no focus is given to the art of selling. Learning to sell, negotiate, define a value proposition from the perspective of the target client, present and pitch – all of these things are ignored, usually in favour of learning how to prepare a business plan that nobody is ever going to read, or a profit and loss account that you’ll need a professional to re-prepare and validate for you in any case. What a waste of time and resources!
I’m hoping to address this by providing tools, processes and general advice on how to package and sell an idea, product or service, how to create demand, how to pitch to potential funding partners, and how to get to a stage where commercial validation of a concept is the default setting when evaluating whether it’s worth you investing your time and energy into the creation of a new product or business. At the very least, I hope to spark a discussion.