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Startups: Find and focus on your core value

Here’s a journey of many an entrepreneur. A kernel of an idea is formed. A bit of validation is performed. And the basic product is defined. It’s an exciting time. Almost immediately, the idea creator starts envisioning the multiple additional ways that the product could be used. Features start adding up and new target demographics are considered. The creator is continually thinking about the various ways that this product will be used. It’s in her thoughts during the commute home, in the morning shower, and pretty much all the time. Very soon, the product is doing lots of things for lots of people. The focus on the core value proposition is lost

What may have started as a tool to help realtors keep track of clients is now selling real estate online and helping with the closing settlement. Maybe it will also help with the new home furnishing and furniture layout. Design services will be provided. It’s all happening – here’s the one-stop real estate offering for buyers, sellers, realtors, and pretty much everyone else.

This is a trap. We’ve just got seduced by our own intelligence. And in the process, we have lost sight of the original offering that was to have added value. Startups need to focus on their core value they are offering their customers. Keep the following points in mind:

  1. Small is beautiful: Find the smallest offering that truly, fundamentally adds value. Find your core that you can build on. And then focus only on that. Discard any and all other auxiliary offering ideas.
  2. Execution beats ideas: Build the kernel of the idea. Build it in the simplest possible way to validate the core value. If necessary, fudge the backend.
  3. Shut up and ship: Get this offering to the market. Analyze the usage data. Interview the users. Validate (or adjust the core) but keep it small and focused.
  4. Don’t get seduced: Every additional feature, target user demographic or use case increases complexity and cost non-linearly and should be ruthlessly discarded unless it can prove itself.

At Ignite Solutions, we face this with our entrepreneurial clients all the time. In fact, we routinely advise our startup clients to narrow down their focus. This helps conserve valuable resources such as funds and speeds up time-to-market. This also helps them launch and iterate their offering.

What about you? Are you guilty of expanding the reach of your product before proving out its success or do you have a razor-sharp focus on the core value?