As you recall, I’ve been talking about the start-up process, as we go through our analysis of the industry at large. Last time, we discussed the need for a vision statement and a clear idea of what a company wants to accomplish. This is the set of guiding principles that a company should aspire to as it grows and evolves. It can be something as simple as “don’t be evil,” or some long, esoteric commentary on the world at large. Dealer’s choice.
With that much underway, it becomes time to find a viable product, service, or idea. This is the hard part, as there can, and will always be failures in this end of things. Ideas don’t always work out, as the market may not be ready, the product may not fit the needs of the world or, in some cases, the world may not be convinced of how revolutionary product. Hell, they may not even know that the product exists!
Marketer Seth Godin likes the use the tale of Sliced Bread to illustrate this point. Sliced bread was invented in the 1910s by Otto Rohwedder. Rohwedder focused on many of the core business aspects of the product – patents, implementation, and the like. However, as Godin explains:
[F]or the first 15 years after sliced bread was available no one bought it; no one knew about it; it was a complete and total failure. And the reason is that until Wonder came along and figured out how to spread the idea of sliced bread, no one wanted it. That the success of sliced bread, like the success of almost everything we’ve been talking about at this conference, is not always about what the patent is like, or what the factory is like — it’s about can you get your idea to spread, or not. And I think that the way you’re going to get what you want, or cause the change that you want to change, to happen, is that you’ve got to figure out a way to get your ideas to spread.
The lesson of the tale is that even the most revolutionary of ideas can fail if they’re not given the means to spread. In this world, where the click of a mouse can send a message to every single major social network – a potential audience of millions – such a possibility grows less likely. However, the potential for such failure is still there.
This potential failure has a crippling effect on the human mind. When one is confronted with the idea that a person can lose, he suddenly grows pensive, and doubtful. The swagger that accompanied the good times is replaced by paralysis and indecision. Sure things become Herculean tasks, and the possible becomes impossible. In the business world, failure is a fact of life. Not everybody will be a winner. However, so long as they’re willing to keep trying, the potential for success and growth remains with the entrepreneur. Startups come and go, but so long as the drive to grow is there, it can be achieved.
As we begin to look toward our growth phase, we have to keep this in mind, as well. There will be missteps. We will be seeing certain things arise that will challenge us, or simply not work. There will be things we do that seem quizzical at first, only build into something meaningful later. And, on the flip side, there will be things that seem to make sense, only to be sent to the scrapyard. The entire process is part art, part science, part controlled chaos.
The entire concept is a bit frightening and, to be honest, it’s what’s kept me from ramping up in the past year or so. However, it’s something that we’ll need to approach if we want to keep growing. Rather than put it off, we need to soldier on… consequences be damned. I’m glad to see that things are finally moving in this direction, and hope that you will continue to join us going forward.