A True Competitive Advantage can’t be copied and can’t be bought.Asymmetrical Knowledge aka “Insider Information” – Not the kind we hear about on Wall Street, which is illegal, but rather intelligence about the market need that you know that is unknown to others. For example, you may have worked for a very large company that has made the conscious decision to ignore a market that they feel its too small for them to devote resources to, but that you believe, with solid justification, can be built into a $100 million a year company. (I am sure that I do not need to caution you to behave ethically and legally in the use of this information.) In business, having knowledge that is uniquely-available to you is a True Competitive Advantage. An Obsessive-Compulsive Attitude about The One Thing – I’m not talking about washing your hands every 3 minutes or straightening the chairs around the conference table whenever you enter the room. I mean figuring out what you can do better than everyone else, something that matters, and obsessing on ALWAYS doing that One Thing better than ANYONE, including your closest competitor, YOURSELF. For example, Google became the behemoth it is today by focusing on Search – being faster, better, more accurate and relevant than anyone else, and then making it faster and better and more accurate and more relevant again and again and again. By the time their competitors came close to copying their stuff, they were already on to the next iteration. Most of their competitors – who started out before them – are long gone (can you say Alta Vista? Lycos? Excite? Do you even recall who they were?). Google’s search page was NEVER the prettiest. It still looks about the same as in 1998. In fact, it was years before Google returned anything beyond a text-based response. They waited until they could return a page with graphics just as fast as their text-based earlier versions. Faster, better, more accurate, more relevant, rinse, repeat. An OCA is a True Competitive Advantage. Personal Authority – Become known as the Industry Expert – the Go-To Person for anyone interested in your area of expertise which, of course, is the basis for your company (see above, Asymmetrical Knowledge). Attend meetings and conferences related to your intended business area. Make noise i.e. ask questions and start discussions. Take controversial positions. One “trick” I have used effectively works like this: Attend a relatively large conference with a panel discussion covering something relevant to you business; during the Q&A, pick one of the panelists and ask a question that contradicts his position – if he says “it’s white,” you say “my experience shows that many times it is black.” (Does not matter if you are right – just matters that your position is conceivable.); A little active banter back-and-forth (courteous, of course); thank them for their answer and ask them (in front of the audience) for some time “after this session.” Two things will happen: 1) Your target will commit to giving you a few moments of his time during which you will have the opportunity to learn and, with any luck, form a lasting relationship; and 2) Others in the audience who were afraid to ask a question or to take the same position as you will seek you out for your expertise i.e seek to bask in your Personal Authority. Your reputation as an expert will flourish. A Dream Team – Has your team done something like this before? Have they served the target market and hence understand the pitfalls in addition to the needs? If they haven’t, then are their other credentials strong? The team is a prime focus for investors – find a way to present each team member in the best possible (but factual) light. You want your investors to understand that your team is up to the task and understands exactly what needs to happen and when. One caveat – avoid being seen as over-confident “know-it-alls.” Existing Customers – An absolutely True Competitive Advantage. Having paying customers, even if it is for a pre-beta version, is priceless! Especially if these are significant customers in your target market. This validates your business plan and relieves investor anxiety. The less-nervous the investor, the more-likely they are to invest. I hope this is helpful. In our next entry in this series, we will talk about Fatal Error #2 “No one ever said they’d buy it.” Please feel free to add your $0.02 to this discussion. (See “Personal Authority,” above.) – Steve Hogan
Staying current with the newest trends and latest news is crucial to developing and maintaining innovation within your company. For this reason and for your own personal development, we recommend making time in your day for daily reading. Some people can suffice with 30 minutes while others can allocate a couple hours. It is important to be efficient with whatever time block you are willing to allot for daily reading.
With a whopping 181 million blogs, daily reading can become a daunting task! In addition to the usuals such as is GigaOm, Wired, TechCrunch, Technorati, PandoDaily and not to mention Guy Kawasaki’s blog “How to change the world.” How is it possible to filter all the noise?
Below are five blogs we read which provide the best and most succinct content. And without further ado, our top five blogs.
With the authors being management consultants, this blog is a gold mine for case studies. Through examples of business successes and failures, entrepreneurs can learn from other’s mistakes.
Ever heard of Angel List? Well you can thank these guys for that! The authors of this blog are avid startup advisors, former entrepreneurs and current investors. Needless to say they know what they are talking about. Venture Hacks offers how-to guides on the basics. They are a great destination for guest posts by influential entrepreneurs and VCs.
Pando Daily is the site-of-record for everything Silicon Valley. As one of the leading stars of the tech blogging space, it’s a mandatory daily read.
And a few of the lesser known angel blogs:
This is yet another a daily stop for angel investors. The blog covers a wide variety of topics and often links to other blog posts. All in all, Angel Blog is an excellent resource.
And saving the best for last: LinkedIn Today. One of your best bets is LinkedIn Today. Take the time to customize your LinkedIn Today and it will provide some of the best content around that is relevant to you.
What do you think of our list? Are there any blogs that you think we should add?
-Nikki Griggs, Business and Marketing Associate
The Wall Street Journal recently posted an article on South Korea’s startup scene. While the U.S. startup scene is experiencing a slowdown, South Korea is one place that is experiencing significant growth. The number of funds raised in the U.S. has declined 34% from last year. In contrast, South Korean venture capital firms are experiencing an increase. The number of Korean startups has nearly doubled to 28,193 in 2012 from just 15,401 in 2008.
What does this mean? While the article points to youth unemployment near the end, we wonder otherwise. Does the slight decrease in U.S. venture capital funds and the rapid increase of South Korean venture capital funds indicate a drop in innovation in the U.S.? Or is it possible that this is related to consumer confidence? It could very well be a combination of the two. In South Korea, we see consumer confidence at a level of 104 and trending upward in South Korea, consumer confidence in the U.S. is trending downward at 78. Not to mention all unending cover stories of innovation in America nearing its end.
Clearly there are other factors that make up South Korea’s current success that may have more impact that South Korea’s success itself.
Does South Korea’s startup boom have bigger implications that we think? What other attributes do you think affect South Korea’s startup scene?
-Steve Hogan, Managing Partner, Tech-Rx
The Moral – – The only True Competitive Advantage is that which cannot be copied and cannot be bought.
Next time we will talk about True Competitve Advantages that you may not realize you have.– Steve Hogan
- How to ask for investment based on goals.
- How to position your team as the ideal match for solving the problem.
- How to prepare a credible financial scenario.
- How to spot and correct weaknesses in your business plan.
- How to manage the look and feel of your startup for success.
Remember that long-gone product that you made your life better? We all have a special memory book of those products that have come and gone out of our lives like an ex-BFF. Well chances are that if the product was cool enough for you to remember then it probably wasn’t the technology that lead to its demise. It is more likely that the downfall of the company was due to inexperienced management, poor product/market fit or some other reason that was completely avoidable. Either way, it is a darn shame! When a technology fades, innovation is disrupted. This is a loss to society.
We don’t do this in our personal lives. Why do we allow this to happen in business? When you are in the process of building a house, for example, and during this you find that the bedroom windows are not designed to open, and you being a fresh-air fiend will never be able to sleep in that room, you don’t simply stop work, walk away and abandon the house. You change the plan to include windows that open and move forward with construction. This is obvious. Why then, do we not make the same types of adjustments to the business plan with our start-ups?
Below are five technologies – some probably “before their time” – that died an early death, but might have been saved if Tech-Rx had been there to help.
Sonific was a streaming music widget that enabled users to embed free, licensed music onto their blogs and social network profile pages that didn’t necessarily support or offer music widgets. Was going completely offline necessary? Or was another revenue model possible for Sonific to pursue?
MyKinda was as an Eastern European country-specific blog network that covered business, politics, culture, lifestyle, science and technology in local languages and English. MyKinda kinda crashed but was it avoidable? Was the marketing plan solid enough to attract advertisers?
Dodgeball.com was a social networking company before social networking was cool. Sure, it was aquired by Google but was Google the right fit? Didn’t Google lead Dodgeball.com to their death?
LetsBuyIt.com was one of the first online group buying services. Although they are coming back as a completely different creature, with the right pivot they could have preceeded Groupon!
Sixdegrees.com was another dying social networking site prior to the Facebook days. What held them back? Could the right strategic partnership allowed them to live a bit longer?
Do you remember any of these technologies? Can you think of any more? Add your favorites to the list.
-Steve Hogan, Managing Partner, Tech-Rx