Build It And Maybe They Come

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of tech startups.  In a previous life I’d have 2 or 3 meetings a day with entrepreneurs who had the latest and greatest business idea based around a piece of technology they’d developed.  I still meet with companies built around ideas that are often very cool and innovative.  There is, however, a problem with many of them.

Tennis Racquet

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suppose you figure out how to make a tennis racquet that always returns the ball perfectly.  Maybe it’s almost a self-driving car for tennis in that it really operates itself.  You might offer it to me at a 100% discount (that’s free for you non-mathematicians).  I don’t care.  I’m a golfer and have no interest in playing tennis.  That’s basic marketing: speak to an audience that has an interest or is predisposed to having an interest developed.  But it’s broader than that.

Unless you have an innovation – or any product – for which there is a pressing need, your chances of success are low.  Just because you build it, don’t expect that “they” will come.  While there are certainly niche products that do well, generally even that niche needs to be large enough to sustain the business.  Don’t assume that you can make up the revenue through higher prices.  Resources are scarce all around.  In fact, I generally assume that people or businesses are unwilling to pay for anything unless it is demonstrably better than whatever free solutions are out there.

You also need to remember that it’s not just money (or lack thereof) that sets up barriers to entry.  New tools require time to learn.  Look at how long it takes for businesses to move from any existing platform – Blackberries, Windows computers to name just two – even though better options exist.  It’s not even a money issue in many cases.  New platforms require support and training.

So build away – maybe they’ll come.  Maybe there will be enough of them to sustain what you’re doing.  Maybe you can convince them that you have a better mousetrap and the investment of money, time, and effort to transition is well worth it.  If those are “maybes” in your mind, you might want to rethink it.  Am I off base?

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