Vision needs strategy

Most startups are founded on a vision; a wish to help bring about change to something in the world. But many lack a coherent strategy of how to get there in the end.

How come? The difference is in the meaning of the various words.

A vision is like a desert mirage. It’s aspirational, something we can imagine but is not real – yet.

A strategy is a plan to find the waterhole in the desert, so to say. It doesn’t have to be a complex plan with a lot of moving parts, but it needs to be a plan that can – if nothing else – convince people that not only might you be on to something. You actually also have some kind of idea of how to capture it.

Many startups frown at the word ‘strategy’ and doing strategy work is a pretty long way down the list of priorities. But while it’s true that execution is key and should take precedence over ‘thought’-work, they still need to set aside time to develop the plan.

Otherwise how are they ever going to make it to the fulfillment of the vision?

By luck? By endless trial-and-error?

Of course not. So get the strategy that supports the vision in place. Make it flexible based on what you learn on the journey, but nevertheless utilize it as a map to get to the destination, you’re longing for.

(Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash)

Time your own luck – now

Getting a business off the ground of course has a lot to do with the idea and what pain you’re looking to solve for customers. But it is also about timing and luck.

Some people say that you can make your own luck. And perhaps that is true. To an extend.

What you certainly can do is look around you at what’s going on. And if you look at the world right now, there are at least 3 good reasons, as I see them, why this might be a great moment to time your luck so to say and venture into something new.

First of all, a lot of incumbents in different industries are busy elsewhere handling the fallout from the pandemic with disrupted supply chains, increasing prices on goods, lack of talent etc. They’re way to busy with that to innovate in earnest themselves let alone keep a keen eye on what you’re doing.

Second, there are a lot of change afoot after the pandemic. New trends have emerged, new patterns of behaviour – some of which we still need to see the resilience of after the pandemic eases, mind you – have got on the radar etc. And with that new pains, needs and demand for new, innovative solutions that you might be able to provide.

And third, there is the work-from-home thing. While some people yearn to get back to normal office life, there are also millions of people out there who feel the opposite. They are ready for a change. Maybe even for a move into entrepreneurship. So when I said above that incumbents might have a hard time finding the right talent, it could be an entirely different matter for you.

So what are you waiting for?

(Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash)

The power of a (new) story

Back when I took the Prof G Strategy Sprint with Section4, one of the things that stayed with me was just how powerful a great story is in shaping entire companies.

I was reminded the other day, when I had a meeting with a seasoned communications professional, where we talked about what great people with a background in communications have to offer a startup board of directors.

The answer is: More than you would think.

Because aside from offering advice and help out on the PR and communication strategy and associated activities, what they can also help do is reimagine the entire mission of the company.

Now, why would you ever want to do that, you may ask?

Simple, really.

When you start out you may have a rather narrow mission in mind. You’re pretty set on the problem, you’re looking to solve, and who you’re solving it for. If you’re good (and lucky) you will have an excellent North Star guiding the first part of your startup journey.

But what happens when you have got that first product in market, and you have started seeing some traction? Do you focus on doubling down and getting even better at delivering your value proposition to that particular client segment, or do you start looking for ways to expand your footprint into new segments?

If you decide on the latter, it will most often take reimagining the vision. If fx you’re a MedTech company looking to serve a particular niche of hospital clinics, you may wonder if you could go direct to consumer – or direct to patient as it would be in this case.

That would entail a new storytelling. A broader vision and mission that can still be tied down to the original purpose behind the company so as not to alienate anyone on the team in process.

Done right this re-crafting of mission or purpose, if you will, could unlock the journey towards new value propositions, new products, new revenues – and new highs for the startup.

And having someone close to the company – eg on the board or an advisory board – with deep experience within communication could be the ideal catalyst for that sort of transformation.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Political bets

Sometimes it can be a huge temptation for a startup to bet the whole shop on a political agenda. Fighting climate change is perhaps the best example.

Without arguing the importance of that particular cause – it’s probably the most important one, we face – the pitfalls of betting on political agendas, mission statements and policies are exactly the same as what make them so tempting;

While they can be set into law and put into effect, they can just as easily be taken away again.

All it requires is a new law.

I am not suggesting that you should never bet on something where the political agenda and policies are strong. Just that you should be aware of the risks associated and have a contingency plan.

Rest assured: You should have time to develop one if you don’t have one. The wheels of government doesn’t turn that quickly.

But again: Don’t bet everything on a political bet.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Re-imagining the office

If you ever had to re-imagine the office post-Covid-19, how would you do it?

Personally, I think a very interesting opportunity lies in getting the answer right to the above question. And I am pretty sure, it won’t be easy.

Look at it this way;

Many companies have already stated that their going to offer work-from-home as an option going forward and as a result are letting go of office space. Some companies have even abandoned the office altogether.

At the other end of the spectrum, many people are reeling from being socially secluded and not being able to have in person interactions with colleagues and co-workers. While distance is great for some, closeness and togetherness is life’s salt for others.

Then add in the pre-pandemic office and it’s rather mundane interior design and commodity perks (fussball tables, Friday bar etc) seeming rather dated and boring by now and ready for the total revamp.

And then – and then – potentially add in some nifty new tech.

What you have is a super interesting cocktail of ingredients that could potentially make up a very interesting and tasty recipe for the Future of (On Premise) Work.

And my gut feeling is that the ones who get this right – probably from starting all over reimagining the experience, function and most important feeling of the future office – will have a golden opportunity.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Way to go, CluedIn!

When something amazing happens to great people, you have some sort of history with, you really should take the time to single it out for special mention and celebration.

It’s such a day today for the great people at CluedIn, a pioneering master data management platform out of Copenhagen, who just announced that they have raised a whopping 15M USD in their Series A round.

In doing that the team has come a long way from the very first time, I met them. After having been introduced to them at a Keystones event, I met with two of the founders, Tim and Martin. I wanted to meet them because I had the impression that this was going to be a ‘boom or bust’ case;

Either they would hit it out of the park. Or they would go down in flames. There was no in-between.

From the first meeting in the attic at the outskirts of Østerbro in Copenhagen, it was apparent to me that they would hit it out of the park. Not only were they great people with a very cool sense of humor that you just loved hanging out and working with They were also – and are – brilliant engineers with a crystal clear idea of what they were looking to do. And why.

Over a couple of months I helped them a tiny bit getting setup and started, and then I had to pursue other things. But Tim and co persisted in their relentless fashion being driven by their mission and spurred on by their determination. They got a bunch of great early backers, added to the team, got their first customers and the rest – as they say – is history.

Which of course isn’t at all fair to the lots, lots and lots of hard work that has gone into, where they are today.

Which is also why every huge CONGRATS that goes the way of these guys is so richly deserved.

Huge, HUGE CONGRATS, Team CluedIn!

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Make a choice

You and your company can’t be all things to all people. You need to choose.

That’s always the first thought that strikes, when I hear of someone looking to build a multi-purpose product for a potentially big market;

Jack of all trades, master of none.

My rationale is that when you’re going for several and quite different use cases all at once, it becomes increasingly hard to communicate to your customers, why you’re exceptionally good at serving exactly their needs and get them to spend the cash on your product or service.

Chances are there will always by a small number of focused pure players who do a better job at solving the customers problem than you do with your ’80 % fixed’ approach (which is in essence what you communicate when you say “We can do all of this” instead of “We just do this”).

The argument can be a bit counter intuitive, I know. Because many will think that with more use cases come more opportunity to make an impact and be successful – not less. Alas, the devil is in the detail as hinted at above.

The contrast to the ‘one size fits all’ approach is to look at where the biggest addressable, focused market is – and then go after that big time. Yes, you will be doing one thing (you get my point, I am sure), but you will be focused, and the opportunity will be there to serve customers who are not seeing “A bit of this, a bit of that” as the solution to their specific problem(s).

Agree?

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Taking stock

Quite often I find that what I set out to do is not the same as what I end up doing.

And I believe I see that happen a lot at startups too.

The explanation is pretty straight forward: There is NEVER a straight line between the original idea and what you end up bringing to market. Something ALWAYS happens that sends you on a small detour. Maybe not a big one, but it’s there.

The problem then arises if you still think you’re doing what you originally set out to do, but in reality, you aren’t. Then its time to take stock and update your view on the world.

Look yourself in the mirror and be frank and honest about what you see. Don’t tell yourself any lies – big or small, black or white – but stay true and real to what is actually there.

That will give you the best vantage point for plotting the continued journey.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)