Solve my problem, please

Normally, we’re used to seeing startups looking to solve the problems of their customers.

But lately, I have realized that there is actually quite a lot of startups, who are essentially asking their customers to solve their own problems.

I typically see it in outreach emails asking me to go to a service or a product and do something specific; update something, try out a new feature or something of that nature. And it’s all perfectly fine.

But it also sends a signal that something is off; something is less than ideal. We have encountered a problem or a challenge on our end, and you, our dear customer, should ideally help us fix it.

Essentially, what you’re often communicating in this way is a shortcoming. Something you didn’t get right in the first place, and now you’re looking to compensate or perhaps even fix the issue.

You could of course argue that there is no other way than outreach to tell about new offers, features etc., and to a large extend, you would be right about that.

However, I could also make the argument that if you had a truly sticky product that your customers were so habitually using they knew it inside and out, they would find out these things themselves, and there would be little need to do outreach to already existing customers.

In summary: When your need to do outreach to your customers is on the increase, ask yourself where in your product or service, your core offering may be broken or less than ideal.

That is the problem, you should solve. Yourself.

(Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash)

The ‘know all’ fallacy

Some of the most charismatic and persuasive people I have ever met have also been the ones who have been the most convinced that they had it all figured out and knew everything.

Until they didn’t.

I am not suggesting that they all failed. But a good number of them did. Because they thought they ‘knew’, ventured ahead without taking stock of what was going on around them – and ultimately hit a concrete wall.

Besides the pain of that particular experience, the most painful thing was that it could most likely have been avoided by adopting a very different approach.

A learning approach, if you will.

When you adapt a learning approach you are more humble.

You’re able to take more signals in.

You are more aware that you’re not directing the world, the world is directing your opportunities, and you adapt.

Adaption is key here. The world changes and you need to do that too in order to be forward looking.

‘Knowing it all’ is inherently backward looking. And not very useful when things fundamentally change.

When you learn and adapt, you are able to seize new opportunities and with that the odds of success increases.

Which again makes it pretty stupid to insist on being the one ‘knowing it all’, don’t you think?

(Photo by Joao Tzanno on Unsplash)

A challenge of a generation

Aside from climate change one of the most daunting trends facing us in the Western world is the thought that for the first time in generations, there is every chance that our kids are NOT going to be better off than we were compared to our parents and the generations before that.

In the US, which has always been the land of hope, dreams and opportunity, this has long tilted, and it is happening in Europe too (article in Danish) with the Mediterranean countries ‘leading’ the pack; growing economic wealth and prosperity as a function of time is by no means a given anymore.

As if that is not bad enough in itself, we’re at the same time filling our kids and youth with the exact opposite story: Everything is available for you, you choose, and your choices are (almost) free – except the luxury items and experiences you can also get and which you can get due to costs saved in other places and the access to cheap capital.

So in reality you could argue that our youth is living a lie, we helped them create, and that one day they will wake up to a staggering bill. When that happens, and consequences need to be reaped, there is no telling what will happen.

Now, this is not a doom’n’gloom piece even though I admit it looks like one. It is – as most of my other writings – a piece about opportunity for creative visionaries to take stock of the problem, go back and figure out how we’re going to solve one of the biggest generational challenges, we have probably ever faced.

I will admit I don’t have the answers. If I did I would probably be busy trying to set the right things in motion. But what I do know is that the opportunity is there for people with products and services that look to galvanize our youth and limit the future impact of the trajectory we’re seeing.

It could be in terms of new kinds of savings products. It could be about education ensuring an ability to ride the development and be presented with new opportunities. It could be about simple living and making that into ‘cool’ living. The list of opportunities are endless.

And there will be a huge need and market for it, once reality hits. An excellent way for the right people to combine a very strong purpose with a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity.

(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

”iHealth”: Challenge or opportunity?

Rumors have been rife for some time that Apple is working on including sensors for blood pressure, blood sugar and alcohol levels in an upcoming upgrade of the Apple Watch-series.

“iHealth” – for the lack of a better term – seems to be on the horizon. And while nothing is certain at this point – and never is for Apple – the rumors should give Health- and MedTech startups in the consumer space some pause. Because a crux time for monumental decisions may be coming up.

For those focusing on consumer hardware and software the basic question is this: Should we continue on our hardware path, or should we double down on software and let the likes of Apple take care of the hardware part?

The question is a valid one for everybody working in the personal health space, and if the rumors hold true there is no reason to believe Apple is going to stop there. The giant will be innovating full steam ahead and include more and more sensors and features in their wearable devices with battery life most likely being the main hurdle to success.

And why will they double down in this area? Two reasons.

First of all while there is great need for consumer-related Health- and MedTech devices, there is probably not much love lost for any of them, if they went away – from a pure customer experience point-of-view. Very few people get that emotionally attached to more clinical devices, but they do to Apples slick design, and the Cupertino-based company will likely in general hold a huge advantage in moving from consumer towards Health- and MedTech rather than the other way around.

The other reason for Apples focus in this area is one that I have mentioned before: They simply have to to drive shareholder value at their current valuation. A company as big as Apple needs super big new opportunities to grow, and the health sector is one of the only ones left with an opportunity that is big enough to make a difference to shareholders.

What may end up helping some Health- and MedTech companies looking at this enlarged competitive threat is the fact that not every consumer is into Apple. While the companies products and design is popular in many quarters a lot of the less well-off customer segments, who may also very well be overrepresented in the health statistics, simply can’t afford Apple products or don’t see the value to justify the price tag.

In order words there may be room for an Android like ecosystem of products and services that serves specific purposes at an affordable price. But is that juice enough for a Health- or MedTech startup looking to make it big in the consumer space?

That’s a really good question.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Challenge the status quo

What is the one thing driving startup opportunity in the post-pandemic era?

The willingness of everybody to challenge the status quo and be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things and – with that – new products and services from new and inspiring companies with strong value propositions.

Now, what is the status quo?

Actually it is two things. And most of us are eager to leave both behind.

There is the status quo of the pandemic lockdown. Of course we want to be rid of that and get our freedom back.

But there is also the status quo of what was before the pandemic, and where we have had more than a full year contemplating what if anything that was before we would like to change. And how changing things are actually – even if forced by a pandemic – (by and large) less painful than what we imagined it to be.

Look at it this way:

The barriers of “that isn’t possible” or “I don’t need that” have been lowered by the past 12+ months of Covid-19.

If that isn’t a signal of opportunity to reimagine and reinvent things, I don’t know what is.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Regulation as a business model

One of the most potent business models, you can have, is if the use of your product or service is directly mandated by law. Or, in the absence of the complete model, heavily subsidized by law.

When something becomes a law, it automatically drives decisions; people and organizations are required to do x, y and purchase z – your product – to stay within the law or at least get subsidized by the government (which has roughly the same effect on helping grow your revenues).

What could be better?

Let’s say you’re in HealthTech. You may not necessarily be required by law, but indirectly the laws governing subsidies for specific treatments can materialize into official recommendation for treatments that specifically includes your product or service.

You become a de facto public standard.

If you can make it to this point, you have really got it made.

Getting there, though, is super, super hard. Because if there are things, you don’t control and should have no ambition to even try to control let alone influence heavily, it’s lawmaking and the creation of rules and regulations.

Ok, you could have the ambition to influence it. But the obvious risk is that by choosing that as a focus, you end up spending your time and effort in the wrong way.

Because no matter your best efforts, you have absolutely no guarantee that you will end up being successful in your endeavors. Quite on the contrary; the overwhelming risk is that you will come up short. And then you will have nothing to show for it.

The best thing you can do is therefore to figure out where you can join to apply gentle pressure – trade organizations of any sort, special interest groups – and then show up, when there is an opportunity to do so, speak your case. And then let them do the heavy lifting for you.

That will effectively allow you to have a leg in both camps: On the one hand you’re trying to influence a development that furthers your ambition in the long run, while you’re busy executing on your business plan on the short term.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Passion versus perspective

When you’re passionate about something, it is very easy to let passion get the better of you and lose the grander perspective on things.

That’s the trouble with passion; it has a capacity to leave you blind-sighted during the very times when you need perspective the most. You focus too much on the here and now rather on what could come next.

But on the other hand passion is also a huge source of energy.

Not only when things go well, and you feel like you can just keep on going because you’re on a quest.

But also when things are falling off the rails, because that’s when you use the energy of your passion to grind your teeth, keep on going and figure out what to do next.

But it still takes an ability to keep your eyes and – most especially – your mind open to the perspective.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

A new financial virus?

I am fascinated by the whole Gamestop/Reddit debacle.

Personally, I am no big fan of hedge funds, and I don’t mind if they are taken to the cleaners and have some of their own methods and ways of thinking reversed onto themselves.

What concerns me is the blueprint sitting beneath this.

Because now we seem to have one;

Now we know you can organize the masses stoked on free money from stimulus packages and non-existing interest rates using free software tools and take on big financial institutions and potentially win. Maybe not a complete victory but more than enough to make the big players feel severe pain.

I am thinking about who and/or what is next?

I have this creepy feeling of deja vu back to little over a year ago, when the first reports of an unknown virus caused a new kind of pneumonia in some remote place in China, most of us had never heard about.

This too could spread. And what are we potentially looking at then?

I don’t think the masses are going to stand back. They are on a high right now having just won and looking for the next prize. That’s the mechanics of gambling; keep going – until you have lost it all again.

If regulators are being pushed to increase regulatory oversigt, it shouldn’t be to save big financial institutions.

It should be to protect us from (unintended) ripple effects.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)