Team, Product & Market

Triangulating the Start-up Triumvirate

Balaya Moharana, Head of Technology

Which one comes on top — Team, Product or Market? Or Are they equilateral — equally necessary ingredients to make up the success of a start-up? The debate goes on, and the opinions, actions and approaches fall into basically two models:

1. Market Model — Market is the Master.

2. Product Model — Product is Paramount.

Market is the Master

As a start-up, you pick an existing market already large enough and make an innovative product that finds you a large slice of the audience. You create a better “mouse trap” than what exists currently in the market. In other words — you take Product Risk, not Market Risk because the market already exists for you. Market will decide if your product is better than what exists or not. Market is the Master.

Examples:

Personal Music: Sony Walkman had 90% of that market when Apple produced iPod. “Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door” — so goes the famous quote, often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th century American Philosopher. That is exactly what Apple did with iPod and the rest is history.

Internet Search: Yahoo and Altavista had the search market tied up among themselves. Then google showed up. Quite often this is called Market Disruption.

Prominent personalities who belong to this line of approach include Marc Andreessen, Netscape Co-Founder and prominent Silicon Valley thinker and entrepreneur. And Don Valentine, founder of Sequoia Capital. The later famously fired the founders of Cisco Systems and continued to succeed because he was “addressing a market so big that even the management team cannot get in its way”.

You find a big enough market; you exploit it with your innovation, and you win.

Product is Paramount

On the other hand — you take Market Risk i.e. you develop a technology/product that ends up creating its own market. This is what many tech companies do. Examples are many — Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google etc. They created products the users loved and they ended up creating huge markets that never existed before. They are the stuff Silicon Valley dreams are made of.

There was no smartphone market before Apple iPhone. (No Blackberry was not really so). There was no Cloud before Amazon AWS. There was no personal computer market before Apple and then Microsoft made it up.

Peter Thiel, Paypal co-founder argues in his book “Zero to One” — the key is to create undeniable and unbeatable technology products that ideally does not even have a competition and you end up creating a market all for yourself.

Also — there are enough statistical numbers that indicate the Product Model indeed provides better rates of success for technology start-ups. See the references below.

DeHaat Tech Solutions

So, what does all this mean for DeHaat? Our operation is multi-focal — we have multiple verticals and the corresponding market segments. We are developing products for each of the models described above.

Market Model: AIMS, OPS, INOC, Marketplace

Products Model: Farmbook, AGRANI, AEROS, Personalized Crop Advisory

Synergy: With that many products, we have multiple angles of attack into various market segments, with all the complexities that comes with each one of them. Above all else — we also have an added challenge of Synergy among all these pieces of products and how we time them well enough — make them play from same sheet of music.

Team

Evaluating the Market is always a struggle. Likewise, predicting a path for product evolution is equally difficult and fraught with various pivots and re-directions. Only thing you can really touch and feel and get a quantitative evaluation is the Team and the People — their experience, education, energy, enthusiasm are all visible in the present and relied upon with a degree of certainty that may not exist while evaluating the Market and the Product. Compose a “Great Team” and trust them to do the right thing.

How do you compose a Great Team? Should the team composition depend whether you have Market Risk scenario or Product Risk scenario?

Feel free to send your comments.

References

From Soil to Market — Building Tech Solutions for Next Agri Revolution