Our new program, Accelerate, asks entrepreneurs to be mindful of opportunity recognition in a number of ways. Technology researchers and developers often see many options to pursue. An important goal for very early stage entrepreneurs is to ideate as many possibilities for their technology in order to determine as many potential products or markets as possible. Then, with the use of a few tools and secondary research, they need to narrow their focus to only a few reasonable and potentially profitable choices.
At our Accelerator we start with two tools: One is to examine the technology opportunity and a second to represent the business opportunity. This approach helps provide an opportunity to examine the scope of the opportunity and make better choices. The narrowing of opportunities is usually represented by easier adoption rates, shorter buying cycles, and leverage to a larger market.
With this data in place, we have our interns dig in and research the market and industry both on a macro and micro basis. On a macro level, we assess the market size and industry attractiveness. Markets are composed of groups of buyers so that determining which groups compose the Total Available Market (TAM), Served Available Market (SAM) and Target Market (TM) is important to determine which should be pursued. Also, by definition, an industry is a group of sellers that represent potential completion. As it turns out, some markets and industries may be clearly more attractive for an individual startup to enter than others. On a micro level, industry attractiveness is, in part determined by the competitive response and current benefits offered by competitors. On the market side, we focus on whether the real or perceived benefits a startup offers are better, different, faster or less expensive than the competition. We ask whether a startup can create a perceived differentiation of improved benefits or costs in the minds of their target market?
We examine trends in both the startup’s market and industry. Is the startup ahead of the trend analysis? If it is too far ahead it becomes difficult to sell the value and benefits that are offered and the market will likely not see the need. The dead pool is littered with products and startups that never materialized. Some examples include Webvan, Ask Jeeves, Pets.com. If it is too far behind in the trend analysis, the startup will never catch up. The goal is to ride the wave of each trend with a base of intellectual property that protects the opportunity and stalls or slows the competition. We also investigate the economic and social forces potentially impacting the startup. Is there a political or regulatory change? Is there a technological advance that provides a customer desire? Do you have the window of opportunity? Good entrepreneurs know that timing is everything.
In the early stage, an entrepreneur needs to access an ability to execute on a potential opportunity. However, validation of the opportunity, product market fit and Business Model Canvas must be present while confirming that financial viability is likely.