Start-ups: Bringing Up Baby


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Entrepreneurs often liken the process of bringing a new product/company to market as giving birth. And the analogy is not far off the mark.

Months, often years, are involved in defining a vision and giving it tangible substance. Blood, sweat, tears, and (quite often) most of the money an entrepreneur has or can borrow have been devoted to shaping the product(s)/company, to nurturing it from the moment it is conceived to where it is ready to meet the marketplace for the first time.

At this point, exhausted, the entrepreneur goes looking for customers and, quite often, venture capital to help him attain the market domination he knows is waiting.

At this point, most entrepreneurs face failure.

Leaving aside for the moment the issues of misjudging marketplace need, poor product design, poor pricing, or even a brilliant product concept unfortunately ahead of its time, I think there are a several things an entrepreneur can do to improve his/her chances of success.

– Objectively analyze market acceptance. It seems obvious to say that even the best products need time to get a foothold in the marketplace. But entrepreneurs regularly underestimate the time their products will take. Believing so whole-heartedly in their concept/vision/product, they grossly underestimate how quickly the market will adopt it. Many believe, too, that marketing will be relatively simple since the excellence of their offering is self-evident.

– Secure appropriate capitalization. This issue, actually, is not as obvious as it appears. Because entrepreneurs all too regularly underestimate the time necessary to gain market penetration and traction, they also underestimate the resources necessary to sustain themselves and their company through what could be an extended period.

– Competition is not always direct. Every market exists in a context. And, like it or not, neighboring spaces impinge and impact the competition for audience attention and prospect approval. Too many entrepreneurs know their specific space well, but they haven’t taken the time or trouble to understand the larger marketplace. They are surprised and blind-sided by what succeeds when they don’t.

So what’s an entrepreneur to do?

Let’s go back to the “giving birth” analogy for a moment.

When you are having a baby, do you invest all your time, care, and money on the pre-natal stage?
Or do you plan for how you will care for the baby as he starts to grow and learns to walk and starts making friends? Do you worry about his environment, save money for his future needs, teach him how to succeed as he goes into the world without you?

So why wouldn’t you do this for your new born product?

The entrepreneur’s dilemma is that by the time the “baby” is born, the entrepreneur is exhausted, and usually out of funds.

But to be a successful entrepreneur means planning above and beyond product development.

It means an understanding, and appreciation for, how you are going to feed and dress the baby: How you are going to sustain the company, position the product, and address the marketplace – after your product is born.

Emily R. Coleman
Dr. Emily R. Coleman is President of Competitive Advantage Marketing, Inc., a firm that specializes in helping companies expand their reach and revenues through strategy and implementation. Dr. Coleman has more than 30 years of hands-on executive management experience working with companies, from Fortune 500 firms to entrepreneurial enterprises. Dr. Coleman's expertise extends from the integration of corporate-wide marketing operations and communications to the development and implementation of strategy into product development and branding.


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