Time kills all deals. For startups, speed to market has never been more critical. When we're investing in a company at BCG Digital Ventures, we look at how well the company will scale. We're focused on idea to Series A. Our startups must go from paper to market within 12 months and to scale within 36, or we fail them.
We've developed 13 questions to help achieve the speed to market and scalability required in today's rapidly accelerating landscape.
What's the purpose of your company? Does it satisfy a strong market demand? Purpose-driven companies attract (and retain) the right talent, maintain customer loyalty and drive profits, outperforming the stock market by 206 percent over the last decade, according to Havas Group.
At TOMS, the purpose is purpose. By providing one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased, TOMS was able to tap into what motivates its customers -- social change.
What market friction are you solving? There are three types of frictions that can turn into an investment opportunity for us:
3. Why now?
Is your idea too early/late to be in-market right now? A beautifully designed product with an incredible user interface won't cut it if either the technology or the market wasn't ready for it.
Before Bitcoin, there was Flooz. Launched in the late ’90s, this digital currency managed to raise $35 million, but shut down shortly after the dot-com bust as the market widely denounced "internet money." Today, there are more than 1,900 cryptocurrencies in the market. It's not always what you build, but also when you build it.
4. Corporate alignment
What corporate assets can you leverage? At DV, nearly everything we invest in has a corporate partner. At the beginning of a venture, we look across our partner's value chain to find a way to leverage a piece of the existing business. In doing so, we create new market value and an unfair advantage. If someone wanted to replicate what we've built, they would need to re-create not only the startup, but the conditions of the corporate partner.
Unilever's acquisition of Dollar Shave Club is a great example. By joining Unilever, Dollar Shave Club instantly gained access to millions of customers, legacy relationships with retailers and other resources it would have never had as a startup alone. In turn, Unilever was able to add a fresh, sexy brand to its portfolio, keeping younger consumers buying for years to come.
5. What's the solution?
What is the preferred reality? Establish this first, and then determine the MVP (minimum viable product) needed to launch. Remember, a MVP is not a prototype -- it's a product customers can actually use. Without an MVP, you can't test; without testing, you can't find product/market fit.
Dropbox recently beat estimates, earning more than $316 million in first-quarter revenue after IPOing in March. But, the MVP that started it all was a three-minute video demoing how to use it. Knowing the product build would require them to overcome serious technical challenges, this was an ingenious way to test the waters before investing years of development.
Are you 10 times better than your competition? If the answer is no, don't do it. Odds are, someone has already tried to build your product before. If you can do it better, faster or in a way that delights consumers more than your competitor, you might be onto something.
Before co-founding Twitter, Evan Williams was involved with the podcasting platform Odeo, which managed to raise a Series A round before closing shop after the release of iTunes. Realizing Odeo lacked a strong competitive advantage, he went on to work on a side project that eventually would become Twitter.
What's your secret sauce? Is there anything proprietary that makes you defensible against competitors? This could be technology, methodology, data, IP, relationships, etc. If there's nothing protectable about your startup, then it's a race to the bottom.
Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26 billion because it had something no one else had built: a thriving content-publishing platform, a relationship management tool, recruitment technology and data -- lots and lots of data, with access to its 500 million users.
8. Addressable market
What is the addressable market? Is it big enough for investors to care? Drill down and get more realistic about the true size of your market.
Who has the need for your product and the means to buy it? How many of these customers currently exist? And finally, whom do you share the market with, and how much of their piece of the pie can you take? Even if you've found product/market fit, that market may not be large enough to matter.
Kodak's brand, once synonymous with photography, ultimately failed after digital came onto the scene because it underestimated the impact it would have on the market. As the addressable market narrowed, the available market followed. Once you've found your market, don't assume it will always be there.
9. Business model
How will you make money? Is it enough to keep your startup above water and growing? Take a step back -- do the math, and ask yourself if your business is sustainable. It's not hard to get seed funding these days, but it's increasingly difficult to get to Series A. Growth is everything, but you have to prove you can eventually turn a profit.
When Snapchat was founded in 2011, its creators didn't know how they were going to make money. But, by 2013, the app had 60 million users and a $3-billion dollar offer from Facebook -- without ever making a profit. The team finally came up with their first real business model in 2015; geofilters allowing businesses to brand themselves through advertising. Most founders will not get so lucky.
10. What is the go-to-market plan?
How will you take your startup to market? Many founders get stuck at this stage. A viable go-to-market strategy requires finding a scalable way to sell your product and create a sustainable revenue stream. If you can't create a sustainable revenue stream, you'll never be able to repay your investors (or yourself), let alone achieve competitive advantage in the market. There's no playbook here; it's different for every business, and figuring out your plan will put you ahead of the pack.
When Jeff Bezos founded Amazon, his vision was to build "the everything store." Launched in 2005, Prime has played a big role in helping him get there. Serving as a beachhead into many different markets, including music/video and now discounts in retail, Prime continues to expand its reach. As of April 2018, Prime had more than 100 million subscribers.
Who else is going to participate? What other players have to exist for you to be successful? A startup ecosystem is a network of interdependent organizations built upon the collective effort of entrepreneurs, investors, agencies, etc. -- all working toward the shared objective to foster the growth of new startups.
Airbnb had to develop and maintain a complex ecosystem of guests, owners, property managers, hotels, residents, housing boards, cleaning services, etc. An entire micro-industry of companies has now sprung up dedicated to serving the needs of Airbnb's users.
Talent is everything. It will determine your startup's outcome more so than any other decision in its lifecycle. You may have a great product, but if your founding team doesn't have the right balance of personalities and skill sets, you will fail fast. Hire people who are passionate about the same things, but also people who think differently than you.
Before there was The Muse, there was PYP Media. When a disagreement left half the founding team locked out of the site, the company failed. After receiving funding from Y Combinator, the exiled co-founders went on to start the successful careers source that is now The Muse. But not all founders get this lucky -- up to 90 percent of startups fail, and most of those are due to team issues.
13. Road map
From idea to scale, do you know where you want to go? You need to understand what you want the future to look like in the next 12, 16, 18 months -- 10 years down the road. And what the road map and capital required to get there will be. A good road map is a powerful tool, but it can, will and absolutely must change.
It's no accident that Angry Birds is one of the most downloaded freemium games of all time. Its massive success was the product of a very deliberate road map to build not just a mobile game, but an entire world. It has continued to expand into new markets over the years, recently announcing its new content road map around the 2019 release of the Angry Birds two movie.
14. Building exponential startups
Operating in an exponential environment means we have to build exponential startups. If you take 30 one-meter linear steps, you've only walked 30 meters. But if you take 30 one-meter exponential steps, you could circumnavigate the earth. This mindset is reflected in the 13 questions we've developed, and it's what we look for in the startups we invest in. Use these questions to diagnose your startup, and build from there.
Are you convinced that you’re indispensable and that everything you do is critical? Yet you feel underappreciated, stuck in your current position, and torn between prioritizing every task and your own well-being?
Meet Suleikha. As a senior vice president of finance and administration, she tops the list of organized and reliable executives I’ve coached. She used to respond to emails within the hour, check off a long list of work items daily, be there for team members whenever they needed her, and has long been an expert on her subject.
Suleikha had been languishing in the same role for two years longer than her peers. Her manager considered her indispensable but never got around to an in-depth career conversation with her. Her colleagues respected her but didn’t include her in strategic conversations. Instead, they sought her out for last-minute crisis resolution. Suleikha had more fires to douse than others because everyone knew she’d carry the water no matter how high the heat. She worked seven days a week, never unplugged, neglected relationships at home, and deferred exercise, gaining a few pounds every year. Nearly burned out, Suleikha was considering leaving her job.
Finally, she discussed her situation with her manager. He supported the idea of her offloading some work, so she and I brainstormed a path to a more strategic and healthier, happier Suleikha.
If this situation sounds similar to your own, the problem may not be your position or peers but whether you are viewing your work in the right way. Not every project or task you take on, especially those others ask you to do, requires your immediate attention — or your action at all. You need to assess whether the work on your plate is the right work for you.
Many of my clients, including Suleikha, use the following six questions to critically consider whether all the work on their list really needs to be done — even if someone has asked them to do it.
Why is this task necessary? Suleikha was surprised to learn that a quarter of her to-do list didn’t have a meaningful “why.” These items weren’t divisional priorities or necessary to keep the trains running. She could eliminate actions like a standing status update meeting where a weekly email sufficed. Ascertaining “why” can ensure critical jobs are prioritized and aligned with the big picture while others are delegated or left undone.
Does it fit into my “time portfolio”? Create a portfolio for your most precious resource: your time. Suleikha divided her core activities into seven categories: manage her team, manage up, track top-five projects, create vision to support business growth, sponsor a key customer account, present at two annual conferences, and email. She then assigned the ideal percentage distribution across these buckets. She mapped time spent on each and set goals to achieve the ideals. Suleikha realized she needed to be thriftier with the time she spent on email, say no to lower priorities, and dedicate more time to what she was truly paid to do: be strategic and set clear direction. By creating a time budget for big work categories, you become more mindful about the responsibilities to which you attend.
What would happen a month from now if it isn’t done? Suleikha got a lot of satisfaction from completing action items. She would even add an already completed chore to her list just to feel good striking it off. But would she derive as much joy at the thought of this completed work a month from now? It became clear that neither she nor anyone else would remember the impact of many items even a few days hence. Before hastily agreeing to a request, visualize its future impact on you, your stakeholders, and your business. You may avoid effort spent on things that are best consigned to corporate oblivion right now.
Who wants this task done, and who is the right person to do it? Suleikha was first to respond to email requests. Her direct reports felt she often did their jobs for them and deprived them of visibility to upper management. She also realized that when her peers wanted something done, a single glance her way would make her volunteer. Ask yourself not just who could do the task, but who is the right person to do the task. Then, liberate time through delegation and allow your teammates to appropriately own their work.
How often do you give more importance to a task than it is actually worth? A colleague asked Suleikha to have a career conversation with his nephew. She scheduled a meeting, only to be stood up — twice. Eventually she recognized responsibility resided with the nephew, and it wasn’t time-critical for him. Evaluate your assumptions about the task’s speed and importance. Assign accountability where it belongs and focus on the action items that are truly pressing and truly yours — even if they are outside of work.
What’s the story I’m telling myself? Suleikha imagined dire consequences if she didn’t accomplish everything, ranging from “People will think I’m rude” to “My directs are already burdened” to “I will look incompetent and weak.” Together we created a fact vs. FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) list to illustrate her worst anxieties side by side with reality. If many of your must-do items originate from a must-do story, generate a similar list to trim your work.
Suleikha moved past her compulsion to take on every little thing and now achieves more on critical matters that are more aligned with the job she was hired to do. She’s happier at work and healthier at home.
When you believe you have to accomplish a million tasks, ask yourself these six questions. You might discover there are more important things to do — ones that will increase your impact and prolong your longevity at work and in life
Click here Read any book on running effective meetings and, chances are, one of the first recommendations is going to be to set an agenda. Managers are often led to believe that having a written plan is the key for an engaging and successful meeting. Sadly, it’s not that easy. Research has actually found little to no relationship between the presence of an agenda and attendees’ evaluation of meeting quality. What matters is not the agenda itself but the relevance and importance of what’s on it, and how the leader facilitates discussion of the agenda items.
Instead of designing your agenda as a laundry list of topics to be broached, consider creating your agenda as a set of questions to be addressed. In its simplest form, the meeting exists to answer a set of compelling questions in an allotted time. Here are some examples of what this could look like:
To reap the benefits of this questions-based approach, there are four keys to success.
Design questions that are specific and challenging.Think about creating agenda questions for meeting attendees like you would go about creating goals for your employees. Why? Goal-setting theory demonstrates that goals energize, focus attention, and promote persistence, all of which lead to better performance. Although much of this work has focused on individual goals and individual performance, a robust literature now exists showing that a groups’ goals also serve to promote group performance. This literature shows that specific goals (e.g., generate at least 5 new client retention strategies) are more effective than general vague goals (e.g., do your best).
The same should go for your meeting questions. Create specific questions like the examples above so that attendees are clear what the challenge or problem is thus better focusing collective meeting efforts. Research also shows that difficult, but doable goals, are the most motivating types of goals. Similarly, agenda questions should be designed to challenge, but not be so outlandish that attendees fail to take them seriously and experience frustration.
Collaborate to identify questions that truly matter.There is no formula for the ideal number of questions to address in a meeting. What is important is to have the right questions. To identify these, a meeting’s leader should first generate potential questions from their vantage point.
Then, attendees should be asked for input as the agenda is being created. There are two reasons why this is important. First, because meetings are fundamentally collective experiences, allowing other voices is only appropriate. Second, when employees are encouraged to openly share their thoughts and ideas – and the leader actually listens to those ideas — they’re more likely to feel a greater sense of commitment to the team and the organization. This, in turn, leads to a more engaged meeting attendee.
After identifying your own potential meeting questions and gathering attendee input, you need to carefully reflect on each question’s value and strategic importance. Drop questions that do not make the cut (in other words, questions that don’t rise to the level of my first tip above). Remember, if you deem an employee-generated suggestion to not be a good agenda question, get back to them in some fashion on the issue and explain why it won’t be included in the meeting. Finally, drop questions that are only relevant to a small subset of attendees; in this case, it is best to pursue the question with a subgroup.
Privilege the most important questions first.Meeting science shows that content at the start of an agenda receives disproportionate amounts of time and attention, regardless of its importance. The implication is clear: put your most compelling questions at the start of the meeting. This will not only assure coverage of key issues; it is also a way of quickly grabbing attendee attention and conveying the value of the meeting. And while it is fine to start a meeting with 5 minutes or so of news and notes, after that concludes, go all in addressing the most challenging, important, and vexing questions.
If the questions are all of equal importance, consider privileging questions provided by attendees themselves. By doing so, you are living into a strong set of inclusion and shared-ownership values.
Execute on the agenda.After your set of questions is finalized, distribute the meeting agenda in advance so people have time to think about and prepare for the questions to be addressed. There is no “magic time” per se; vexing strategic questions likely require around a week of lead time, but for most other questions, three days lead time should suffice. I also encourage meeting leaders to include the meeting agenda right into the meeting invite so it’s easy to locate.
Then a meeting leader needs to execute on the agenda. The most successful leaders not only consider what should be covered in a meeting, but also how to cover each item.
For instance, an agenda topic can be actively facilitated by you, or you can give that responsibility to someone else. It can be set on a timer or not, or addressed in a nonconventional manner such as having people brainstorm in silence, using voting apps, working in pairs, etc. An agenda topic can be addressed in two deliberate phases separated by a break: deliberation and decision. Or it could even involve certain attendees role-playing key stakeholders (e.g., a customer) not present at the meeting, or different process-oriented roles like devils-advocate, tangent buster, or positive Paul.
Clearly, there are numerous approaches to consider. To pick the right tool for the job, think about the attendees, the tasks, the history, and the meeting’s potential pitfalls. Let me share an example of this in practice for one meeting leader. This leader knows her team is composed of some very strong extroverted personalities and some quiet introverts. Plus, the introverts are the more junior folks on the team. Given this, the leader turned to a host of silence-based techniques. At the start of the meeting, one of the already-distributed agenda questions was presented to the attendees. Attendees provided responses to the question, in silence, using a meeting app. Next the responses were clustered together based on similarity and each cluster was named. This then led to the final silence phase, attendees voted on the top clusters to discuss. At this point, the silence phase ended. The meeting leader then facilitated an active discussion to derive the best possible answer.
Ultimately, a questions-based approach to agendas can bring focus, engagement, and better performance to your meetings. If you have never tried this approach, give it a go. It’s OK to experiment, reflect, learn, and tweak your approach. This work will not only help make meetings better, but will also build a broader team culture of learning, taking reasonable risks, and non-complacency.
And remember: if you can’t think of any questions to be answered in a meeting, that may be your sign that a meeting is simply not needed. Give back the gift of time to would-be attendees. They will thank you.
Porter's generic strategies are ways of gaining competitive advantage – in other words, developing the "edge" that gets you the sale and takes it away from your competitors. There are two main ways of achieving this within a Cost Leadership strategy:
Your choice of which generic strategy to pursue underpins every other strategic decision you make, so it's worth spending time to get it right.
But you do need to make a decision: Porter specifically warns against trying to "hedge your bets" by following more than one strategy. One of the most important reasons why this is wise advice is that the things you need to do to make each type of strategy work appeal to different types of people. Cost Leadership requires a very detailed internal focus on processes. Differentiation, on the other hand, demands an outward-facing, highly creative approach.
So, when you come to choose which of the three generic strategies is for you, it's vital that you take your organization's competencies and strengths into account.
As specified in the heading, the extra quality of utilizing sales force is that estimating marketing adequacy and deciding ROI are significantly more clear to utilize sales force than for other marketing particular contraptions--where audit or mindset change is consistently the fundamental quantifiable effect. The most imperative nature of using sales force is its flexibility. Sales representatives can tailor their acquaintances to fit the necessities, perspectives, and behaviour of individual customers. A salesperson can measure the client's response to a sales approach and instantly alter the message to encourage better understanding. Utilizing sales force additionally limits squandered exertion. Sponsors can invest a considerable measure of energy and cash in a mass-marketing message that contacts various people outside the target of advertisement. In up personal offering, the business initiative pinpoints the goal market, reaches, and focuses effort that has a strong probability of provoking an arrangement (Tajeddini, Elg & Ghauri, 2015).
The International Product Management standards characterize the choice in clear terms that incorporate selling a similar products regionally. Changes and modifications on officially existing products for various markets, Creation of new products for remote markets are allowed while streamlining all resources from the business sales divisions into one product where this will be exhibited as an overall product range offering (Kotabe, & Helsen, 2014).
For this situation, in any case, the choices are constrained among the two on account of the social contrasts between countries alongside different elements. The particular societies in the sustenance business, the distinction between the institutionalization and adjustment methodology is extremely clear on account of the accompanying components. The standardization framework is named as the expansive scale approach and is an overall procedure. In like manner, the modification framework is named as the little scale approach and is a changed philosophy for a specific market (Graham, Cateora, and Gilly, 2015).
In the wake of having conducted a thorough exploration and collection of market information it is clear that the territories of the product system that should be adjusted and altered to be adequate by understanding the markets specification in both market and consumer, the product image and perception, reparation, brand name, package colour and type, unit size, measurement units, packaging outline, logo and the Product description needs to be tailor made. This is the primary definition of the methodology for the proposed approach as these particular strategies for adjustment would enable the brand to pick up points of interest for the Vietnamese landscape.
The application of a marketing mix is an excellent method to ensure positive change the market accomplishment by understanding different prerequisites of the clients. The marketing mix is an important tool to help realise what the company or the specific product can offer and how to successfully promote an item strategically. (Friday, Hightower & Friday, 2015). The marketing mix is regulated through the use of the 4 P's of marketing: Price, Product, Promotion, and Place. Along these areas of the product and consumer, the specification is matched and the sales force takes into account the organization to build up a two-way correspondence channel with the consumer populace that enables the organization to see the different variables driving their basic leadership and item inclination in the portion. This enables the organization to the utilization of the 4P's of marketing to characterize the consumer needs comprehended from the sales group and address the issues by making an interpretation of them into item details and introduction or just planning the correct marketing message (Barker, 2015).
Adapting the product for the new market therefore is not dependent on the quality of the product itself as the quality standards are adequate but to influence the image development for the brand in the new location that would allow for the development of the brand image in a favourable light for the consumer values governing their purchasing intention and purchasing decisions (Papadopoulos & Heslop, 2014). Apart from that, the adaptation of packaging needs to be done, as it needs to fit in with “size of coin” or what is based and deemed affordable by the consumer in terms of a sensible price point.
Because of the various advantages of the greenfield approach the best options would be to use the direct imported model and prepare labelling to appeal to the values of the Vietnamese consumers which would allow the company to make venture into the market with little risk and thus allow for the development of the product recognition and develop an image that aligns with consumer values in the new locations (Kraus, et al., 2016). Labelling will also need to be kept within the limitation on Vietnamese Food Regulation, and thus adhere to local guidelines.
The product needs to be presented in a way that gives the product a favourable image in the market which would allow for the development of the image without compromising the global reputation of the company regarding the quality.
Thus, the marketing activities need to be based loosely on the quality of the product but also needs to emphasise the adherence to the consumer values of the country which can be unearthed through market research through providing quality assurance and warranties. However, there is also one shortcoming for the approach as the values of the market are often not noticeable at first and thus novel approaches of attracting the customer attention and developing loyalty through unique value proposition which is just as likely to have a negative impact.
The possible choice for the company for this expansion effort is highly dependent on the portrayal of the product while the quality of the item is suitable for the market and acceptable as per the various standards.
Thus, use of the direct export seems like the best option as the market success is uncertain because of the undefined values of the customers which mean the significant investment in production might be too risky to pursue at this early stages of penetration. On the other hand, the quality maintenance concerns bars form the use of the licensing and other partnership functions in the country as mode of entry, as the quality standards is the main weapon of the company to penetrate the market and generate long-term value which means any damage to the company product image would be irreparable which makes this approaches unpalatable under the current market conditions.
Product adaptation is the path toward adjusting a present product so it is suitable for different customers or markets. A changing philosophy is particularly basic for associations that passage their products since it ensures that the product meets adjacent social and authoritative necessities. Change is also indispensable for associations that need to exhibit new products that yet don't have the benefits or resources to developing absolutely new things.
Adjusting products for consumers can be a critical methodology for growing the impact area of a business. It gives the chance to expand income by entering new markets for current products. Be that as it may, to be fruitful, there should be a complete intensive examination into the business sectors that are thinking about and the potential effect on business as far as the time and cost to adjust products. Adjustment techniques for send out domains must assess various elements, including social inclinations, value, quality models, estimation frameworks, administration and support. Fare associations, for example, region wholesalers can furnish a potential market entrant with a look into data to design adjustment.
Before an entry strategy is formulated – there must be due diligence that is carried out on both product acceptance into market, competition, route to market, marketing levers that will help to grow the segment, as well as what would it take for the launch to be successful.