Anyone who has talked to me in the last four months has heard me, at some point in the conversation, rant about the All-In-One platform trap. The trap is simple: there are lots of platforms out there with related services and/or products and our startup is going to centralise all of these into a single wildly successful platform.
Unfortunately, this is no way to build a venture.
I probably see a half dozen startups like these each month where founders are going to create some slick user-interface and provide all the services for home repair, all the products for health and beauty or all the component parts needed to run a restaurant.
Just because something can be put online or automated through a piece of software does not mean you should do it. Internet-enabling your business (i.e. using software and web tools to scale your business online) is not always the solution and creating a model that does everything at once never produces a successful startup. What about Amazon? They sell everything under the sun and are one of the most successful startups in the market today.
One has to remember that when Amazon was a startup, they didn’t sell anything and everything; they only sold one thing: books. They expanded to DVDs, CDs, and banana slicers later on, after they had successfully proved their model in a space where they saw an opportunity.
This is the key takeaway: as a founder you have to prove your startup can be successful with one service or product before you can go after the lot. A tactically focused approach to a single market or problem is the clearest path to building a platform your startup can use to expand from.
This can be done a number of ways, for instance, one of the startups we work with at Innovify, PathPlanr, wants to become the ‘Netflix’ of personal development. Rather than tackling how to help all career developers link up with online resources to further their career, PathPlanr focused on a specific niche market of gaming professionals. The founders have worked in the market for over a decade and understand the career development needs of the market, which they will use to test their business model, assumptions and ‘secret sauce’ (an algorithm that matches career goals with career development materials). Once they have validated their model, they can expand to a wider market or more service in the same space.
PathPlanr took the niche market approach, but many startups will target a single service or product as Amazon did with books or Google with search. Ultimately as a founder, it is too risky to try to create a startup that tries to be all things at once.
You won’t be able to focus on differentiating your product/service; you will risk the quality of all by spreading resources across numerous value propositions; and, if you do something right that delights your customers, you may not be able to tell what has caused your success because you have too much to manage.
At the end of the day, your company will only get customers/users and it will only get funding if it can do something and do it well.