Robert Scobel caused me to post twice in the same day. This time on a post by Tara Hunt over at Photo tagging startup Riya. Tara Hunt is brilliant, Canadian and evangelical about the future and opportunity for web2.0 start-ups. But she is also (slightly) wrong on the advantages of being a small start-up.There are advantages to being small, granted, but there are also numerous reasons why being small can be a problem. These are views that are rarely not often given weight in the entrepreneurial Blogosphere – because well… . we’re all enthusiasts. If you Blog you’re already drinking the kool-aid. But if you aren’t or you don’t read them you must be missing something.I think I’ll do a larger post on the real problems with being a startup when I’m not headed off to bed. In the mantime I think I’ll just respond to my observations on what Tara said…Advantage 1, that large companies are asleep, is never true. They’re not…. they’re prioritizing (though, they may be groggy) 😉Believe me. I work with start-ups everyday – they’re doing it to. They prioritize based on one thing: their objective(s). Riya, where Tara works, is a perfect example they do their (currently) one thing very well, Objective 1 complete. Many of the logical next steps are features they may or may not release based on user opinions…. (ahem -like a certain mac upload tool, I’ve been promised! or perhaps a photo hosting feature, etc.) This is presumably why a community is so important (for a startup) – but for an established company they have real live customers giving feedback for the next release. That’s their community.Every company has a way of dealing with new features sent down from their employees or customers. But how do they (management) know about them? Bulletin Board discussions also still go strong in many organizations. In some of the larger groups I’ve worked with, it comes down to the management actually asking for them!I know of a CEO in an 4,000 person organization actually begging for emails on fridays about new ideas/opportunities; he reads them sunday and mondays is phoning employees at work to talk about ‘that email about this new’ widget etc.It then goes into a priority list – if it adds value to the products you’re currently making then yes… it gets something. if we’re unsure – it gets passed to the appropriate group.. it gets passed to VC’s outside the company as an opportunity….. etc.Advantage 2: Well, Tara’s right, they will ignore you… they should…. its a race you’re behind – how many runners turn around or look back in a race? Not any winning ones. Running analogies aside, companies only talk when you take their core competency and add value to it or threaten it.
- If you add value they look at you as one of two things: an opportunity (for them) or threat (if you’re with a competitor.)
- If you threaten their core product line, their bread and butter, you’ll be dismissed – every startup claims to threaten their core value, (we’ve got the next windows here, etc.)…. you know what? most never really do threaten the core value..at least not overnight.
All this is predicated for the listening to outside possibilities… is this likely? Possibly not. But I don’t think start-ups can count on it giving them any advantage.Advantage 3: It is an advantage – but not for the reason Tara gives… larger corporations do know their community….. changing their community is much more difficult.Riya, technorati, wordpress, have all catered to their community, and essentially don’t ask for much while doing the catering. Microsoft and larger groups have much larger diverse group to serve… and they ask for money… when building a community that always makes it tough ;)At the end of the day Tara is right (and an example) about listening to your communities of interest as being the most important thing.