Impossible Products. Is Your Startup's Value Proposition GOD?
Life at a startup starts out simple. You have an MVP (minimal viable product) and a niche set of customers to serve. You’ve pretty much nailed it and the business is gradually growing. But with pressure from investors it starts to become more and more important to expand your market share and deliver bigger and better products.
Before long, the founders are promising investors products that are so far removed from the original concept that you wonder if they have lost their minds.
The global opportunities database
Or GOD. This is the product that the founders are certain will turn the company from a lame donkey trotting along Blackpool beach to the magical, sparkly unicorn they have been dreaming about for the past 4 years.
The data collected by GOD will create a machine learning AI system that can order anything from cars to coffee before the user even realizes they need them. They will be delivered by drones, underwater robots, and driverless trucks all powered by GOD. GOD will connect to the rest of the world with a proprietary technology stack. It will round up your spare change and donate it all to your favourite sad puppy charity of the week.
GOD will be free and available to all.
Everyone will want to use this product and service. They will tell their friends about it. They will even tell their mum who still can’t figure out how to use the TV remote. It will be built within 12 months with no user testing or iterations. Because nobody is quite sure what a quarter of GOD is.
The problem is that although startups need to aim high, product delivery and iteration is virtually impossible if the end goal is so aggressive. Founders look at companies like Google and Facebook and want to build new GODs just like them. But neither Google or Facebook set out to build GODs. They built great products – a great way to organize the internet and a great way for bros to rate hot girls at college – and the rest followed.
Back to earth
If your senior leadership team seems to have gone insane and are determined to build the next GOD, or even the next Google or Facebook, what should you do?
The honest truth is that it may be time to leave. This sort of desperation can be an early sign that your startup is failing. Founders have lost their way and any strategic vision they may have had in the beginning has crumbled.
We feel that many falling Unicorns – from WeWork to Uber – have fallen into the trap of promising everything to everyone.