Stop Following the Sexiest new Idea. Find your Market.
So many times an industry will be hooked on a common story. They’ll love that story and disseminate it like a giant game of telephone where the idea will change to become even more appealing with every pass.
We see this again and again in the tech industry. We were in the throws of an AI circle jerk for the past few months, but recently it’s switched to a cryptocurrency obsession, with everyone and their brother coming out with initial coin offerings.
But the thing about these fads is just that. They’re fads. They come in. People cling to them for a bit. Make tons of product. Maybe get a bit of money and then just a few remain once the investors scatter.
When you’re creating a company, you don’t want to chase the sexy fad. You want to chase a market. Cryptocurrency is great and all but who is the market for that right now besides maybe investors, for the most part?
AI is incredible and I know it is and will continue to revolutionize how we interact with all our technology…but I also know that innovating towards true AI requires more than a cursory understanding of how it works. It is a highly, highly technical field to contribute to. Implementing API’s for days is great for a startup, but unless you are big company and can attract the type of talent to really innovate in the field you kind of have to ask yourself what are you doing? Creating a very sophisticated statistics analyzer?
So, back to the original thread of this 2 am rant, follow the market.
What is the market and where is it? The market. The market is a group of people with needs that can be met. If their needs are met they will give you money in return for your service / product. Find a market that doesn’t have too many sellers or maybe is a bit harder to reach. If you can meet its needs you will sell your product and make a lot of money, provided the market is large enough.
Find that market and create a solution for them. In an era where creating and sending out software is so easily done, maybe a good market would be the 12% of Americans that are not using the internet. This group of people is difficult to reach so there is not too much competition and any product you give them you can reach via direct marketing, which few people do well anymore.
Let’s look at another underserved market, what about the elderly? Some markets are intimidating to a lot of people. How will I get them my product? How will they get internet to use my service? Do they know how to use tech? But once you understand your market, research it, and talk with the people that comprise it, everything falls into place. This is not some homogeneous school of fish. These are individual people with needs and desires and problems. Understand the people in your market. Understand the market. And then create a product that meets those needs. Without understanding the humanity in a market you can’t hope to create something to meet its needs.
The thing about creating products for the elderly, for instance, is that they are not all “old” as you might think about it. The elderly market spans people from 65 to 110 years old. That 45 years. That is like saying 20 to 65 year olds are the same. Within this category of the elderly there is massive stratification. Within a market there are multiple levels. Split up the market again and again until you can lay it all out in front of you.
To continue with the elderly market example, split it into the different primary traits for each group: technophiles, arthritis, technophobes, dementia, Parkinson’s, lonely, active, photographer, family man, etc. These are people, but the majority of them are somewhat less familiar with modern technology as us. So if you want a market with a high barrier to entry and lots of opportunity that would the one.
Another one might be international students / workers coming to the U.S. and missing home food. How do they cope with their mochi or curry cravings? Or maybe skateboarders with no good skate racks? There are thousands of underserved markets with people who want a product to solve a problem they may not have noticed they had yet.
So if you take nothing else away from this. Keep your eyes up at the world around you. Look every product you see and ask yourself “What market does that serve?” eventually you might see something for a market you never knew existed. Pick your market. Understand the people inside it. And create something they love.
With Ohana we saw the struggles our grandparents faced when communicating with the entire family. We saw no one was meeting their needs adequately. And we created a product to match that need. You can learn more at Ohanaisfamily.com