At our Venture Capital days our we see pitch after pitch from aspiring Entrepreneurs but with so much Me-Too competition our teams need to quickly establish whether or not they believe a brand is clearly differentiated enough to be able to get a foothold in its chosen market. Most aspiring Entrepreneurs spend weeks practicing and honing their pitches but in spite of their swaggering confidence many of them still fall into one of the most dangerous, but easiest to avoid traps – the Er Trap but we aren’t talking about hesitation.
Nothing raises a red flag to investors faster than an Entrepreneur juxtapositioning their brand with another company’s proposition because it sets off trains of thought that raise questions about their company’s long term viability and their ability to create disruptive new products that will bolster their long term potential.
When Entrepreneurs describe their brand as Bigg-er, Bett-er, Simpl-er, Cheap-er, Light-er, Healthi-er, Fast-er they’re unwittingly telling us that they’ve already aligned their proposition and future product developments to one or more of their competitors and that they’ve already consigned themselves to being the subordinate upstart rather than innovative leaders and if fortune does smile on these new Entrepreneurs and they start eating into the incumbents market share then their better capitalized competitors can wipe out their advantage overnight by using simple Sustaining Innovation techniques that make their own products Bigg-er, Bett-er, Simpl-er, Cheap-er, Light-er, Healthi-er or Fast-er – features, might we add, that they often give away for free…
Leaders dare to break the mould and they avoid getting caught in the gravitational pull of their would be competitors by creating new markets or by redefining the status quo of an existing one by using Disruptive Innovation techniques that help them address their customers unmet needs in new ways that are effortless, more convenient, more accessible and more affordable. Meanwhile history continues to show us that the companies that made disruptive innovation a key cornerstone of their strategy made their competition irrelevant from the off and ultimately became the new yard stick that investors used to measure the market.
If you look back across time you’ll see that most great brands stood apart from the rest. Who did Mark Zuckerberg compare Facebook to when he pitched for investment? Who did Uber compare themselves to? Or McDonalds? Or Walmart? Or GE? Or Apple? Or GoPro? Or Twitter? Or Airbnb? Or Hailo? The list could go on.
Investors are inspired by Pioneers whose propositions are so ground breaking and so simple to understand that it’s harder to see why customer’s wouldn’t buy into them but perhaps more importantly these are the companies that contain the cultural DNA that ensure they stay leaders and that is something that’s much harder to find.
Being a Me-Too brand is easy – thousands are spawned every day but if you dream about building the next Google then your proposition has to stand on its own two feet. Companies that rely on being Bigg-er, Bett-er, Simpl-er, Cheap-er, Light-er, Healthi-er or Fast-er than their competitors can quickly find their advantage eroded, their growth stunted and new funding harder to secure.
As an Entrepreneur you have the envious benefit of starting with a blank sheet of paper from which to plan your path to world domination so use it to your advantage and be the next disruptor.