Be compelling, not Genius
A lot of times, you would have this pure genius idea that you know no one else has thought of (hmm, not sure about that). This is something that can blow the world away. Honestly, you have no clue if this genius idea would work or not, but it’s really awesome, and it would be SO amazing if it worked.
On the other hand, there are some ideas or solutions that you know is pretty compelling, but not as “sexy”. I would say, if this is your first project/startup, focus on the compelling one.
A lesson from the birth of Viralogy.com
So when we were conceptualizing Viralogy.com in December 2008, we were stuck between 2 ideas: one that was “genius”, innovative, and fun, but somewhat shaky. The other one was more “compelling” but not as mind-blowing. I mean, a Social Media Rank is cool and meets a big demand in the social mediasphere, but it’s not like the newest patented technology that will lead an undiscovered industry for the next two decades. It’s simply something that is needed, and no one else is doing it.
We all wanted to do the genius and exciting project, but it was also pretty shaky. There were too many possible scenarios that it didn’t work out. It was a brilliant way to coorindate many moving parts together to create value for all sides and make money. However, with so many moving parts, the stars have to align for all of that to continuously work out without any trouble.
If this is your first project, choose the compelling project, and put your genius into that
Finally, we decided that the genius project was too shaky, and don’t want to work for 3 years and have everything fall apart. We then picked the more compelling one. However, at that point, we didn’t know if this compelling one could make money. We then put in some of our creative juices and then came up with something cool that could make money (That actually wasn’t compelling and we switched away a bit afterward). We also put in a lot of work to make sure that this “compelling” idea is fun, exciting, and even sometimes sexy. And that is the birth of Viralogy.com.
To prove a point, within our first month of official launch, we garnered around 20,000 unique visitors, 30% of them from Direct Traffic. Three months into the project, we’ve developed a strong brand name, achieved a Pagerank of 5 (for Viralogy.com/blog), obtained over 100,000 blogs with 1.2M blog calls, and solid traffic. We got to this point because unlike many other “innovative” startups, we were compelling, and we used our creativity to push it through.
Trust me, even if you think something is compelling, there’s still going to be so many variables that get in your way that require your brilliance to solve. For the same reasons, Good to Great tells you to do what you are the best at in the world, not what’s the coolest or most popular.
If this is your first project, pick the compelling solution, use your genius within that, and build a foundation/reputation that can support your other brilliant ideas.
A few weeks ago, I was exercising while listening to the Wall Street Journal This Morning about what the government is doing to save the economy. I have also been paying attention to how governments are giving grants to startups who can prove that they are very innovative.
Having wrote a blogpost on this topic earlier, I formulated what I think is a doable plan for the government to save the economy.
For validation, I took this plan to two of my friends, one who is an ex-VC and Boston Consulting Group Consultant, and the other a Stanford Researcher. They haven’t been able to poke holes in this theory *yet*, so I thought I would share it on my blog and hopefully I will find out the flaws in my thinking or it will get discovered by policy makers to really execute it through.
Foundations of my theory: nodes and 3 coefficients
When the government throws money into the economy, it passes through many “nodes” (person or organization), and each node has three coefficients along with it: spend/save, innovation, and upside.
What to do when your industry is dying
I recently spoke with someone who works for a large worldwide newspaper company, and he told me about how it’s really tough being in his industry. Everyone says print is dead, and there are fewer and fewer people reading physical newspapers, and fewer and fewer companies want to advertise on them. They are trying to build up their online division, but there are so many free sites out there and so much competition that it’s very difficult to become established too. He asked me for some advice.
Take all your established resources in the dying industry and focus on the new booming industry
I told him that, being a worldwide brand that they are, they should really take that brand, and focus more energy on the online division. Yes, they have more competition, but they are more established, especially to their target market that is slowly moving online.
If they think of themselves as startup in the online arena, they will realize it’s not grim at all. They actually have so much established, so many assets, and a strong brand name. And with that, with the same amount of effort, they will beat their competitors. The problem is that their competitors who are entirely web based, focus 100% of their energy on their online department, whereas this company only spends about 20% of their resources on it. Of course they will lose.
Take what you have, pull it out of the dying industry, and put in all your efforts in the new booming industry. If you can’t adapt as fast as the environment moves, you will become a victim of natural selection.
Don’t create the perfect product. Create what your customers want
A lot of times, teams try to produce the most perfect piece of product they can imagine. They want all the features, all the bells and whistles, and all the design implemented before they can launch it to their audience. By doing so, they spend a lot of time and money. When they finally launch it into the market, often times they realize that this is not what the customers want, and they have to revise it anyway.
Don’t make the perfect mousetrap if your customer has termite problems
Some people can spend years trying to build the perfect mousetrap, and then realize that their customer only has termites at their place. Now all that work is wasted. It would be much more efficient if you talk to the customer first, see what problems they have, go visit their house, or even live there for a few days to see the problems!
Building the best product by yourself means you assume that you are 100% like your customer
When you are trying to build the best product by yourself, you are building something that pleases you, not your customers. The only way this can work, is if you are 100% representative of your customers, which is rarely the case. Don’t be arrogant and think you know more about the customers than themselves. That might be true, but you would have better odds talking to them first about it.