Robert Ochtel’s Blog

An Experienced Approach to Venture Funding

Entrepreneurs, What is Your Start-up Company’s “Value-Added” Proposition?

Simple questions from venture capitalists can be the most difficult to answer for entrepreneurs. Why, because they often require both a strategic vision and specific insights to the long-term nature of all aspects of the market, your competitors, and your customers.  This requirement often eludes entrepreneurs as more often than not they are tactically focused and do not really have a strategic vision for their start-up company and the long term business opportunity their investment represents to their customers and to these same investors.  Therefore, when asked “What is the value-added proposition of your start-up company?” they often stumble and in some instances cannot answer this most simple of probing questions.  Why, because they have not taken the time to really evaluate what they are trying to offer the market and their end customers. That is, “Why are customers going to buy your product?”  As an entrepreneur, there are four tenants that you need to address, which will provide you the necessary insight to address the issue of defining the “value-added” proposition for your start-up company.  This article addresses each of these tenants and their ultimate importance to the potential success of your start-up company’s product offering to the market and its end-customers.

What are the Strategic Opportunistic Needs of the Market?

When developing a product offering you need to start from the markets.  Specifically, you need to address the “strategic opportunistic needs” of the market.  That is, what is the “problem” or “need” you are solving.  If there is no “problem” or “need” to solve, then there is no particular reason for customers to buy your product.  Whether it is lower costs, lower power consumption, higher efficiencies, or better service, etc., there needs to be a strategic opportunistic customer need that you are addressing with your start-up company’s product offering. Therefore, to determine your value-added proposition to the market place and the end customer, you need to definitively identify and solve a market or customer need that is currently not being addressed in the market.  The basis of this strategic opportunistic requirement needs to be based on a real assessment of the customers and the market. Anything less, will not cut it, as customers are very discerning, and if they do not see a definitive need to buy your technology, product or service offer they won’t.  Therefore, take the time to define the needs of the market place. Write these needs down on paper, and verify them by talking to a number of potential customers. You will then be able to appropriately define the “strategic opportunistic needs” of the market and one important tenant of the value-added proposition of your product offering.

 Do You Have a Long-Term Competitive Advantage?

Investors need to know that as a start-up company that you have a long-term competitive advantage in the market. This is usually accomplished through the development and subsequent patenting of certain intellectual property as it relates to your start-up company’s technology, product or service offering. This intellectual property, as defined, needs to differentiate your start-up company’s product offering in the market, and at the same time provides significant value to the long-term competitiveness of your technology, product or service offering.  Remember, investors are looking to create long term value, so that they can ultimately cash-in by either selling your company to a third party or going public (not too often these days).  Therefore, you need to create and protect your value-added proposition with patented intellectual property.  Doing so, will provide your start-up company with a long-term sustainable competitive advantage and allow your investors to earn substantial returns on their investment.

What is the Competitive Positioning of Your Start-up Company?

Do you know the competitive position of your start-up company? More often than not, entrepreneurs do not really understand the value of creating a “unique” competitive position in the market.  By creating this competitive position in the market you are differentiating your start-up company in the market and at the same time creating a value-added proposition to your customer base.  Whether it is a lower cost solution, or a unique service offering, you need position your start-up company and its technology, product or service offering as differentiated from your competitors. Apple does this well with their entire line of product offerings.  By offering unique operating systems and value-added user interfaces, they provide a differentiated end-user experience.  Hence, Apple has developed a “value-added” and unique competitive position in the market.  As such, they are able to charge more for their products, as the customers believe that there is value in the Apple product offerings and the overall end-user experience. Therefore, as a start-up company you need to develop a unique position in the market, such that your customers believe there is significant and unique added value in your product offerings when compared to your competitors.

How Do You Define your Start-up Company’s Product Offering?

How you define your start-up company’s product offering can add significant value to your customers and their needs. As an example, many times there is significant value to your customer base in how you deliver your product to the market.  For example, take Netflix and the movie rental industry. By developing a new delivery channel for a “generic” product offering, the home movie rental market, they have been able to provide substantial “value” to their end-customers, and at the same time differentiate themselves in the market.  Therefore, take the time to properly define your start-up company’s product offering. Make sure you are doing this in the context of developing a differentiated product offering for your target customers and the market.  This will allow you to develop a product offering that is defined by market and the end customer needs.  Solving a customer’s problem by appropriately defining your product offering to the market can be a key to adding significant value to your end customer and at the same time differentiate your product offering in the market.

Creating a “value added” proposition for your target market and its customers requires vision and specific insight to the long-term nature of all aspects of the market, your competitors, and your customers. To do this, as an entrepreneur you need to address four tenants, including: identifying the strategic opportunistic needs of the market, determining your long-term competitive advantages, developing a defendable competitive position, and determining your unique product configuration.  These items together will allow you to develop a “value added” proposition to the markets you are addressing and your end customers.  This will also provide your potential investors with the necessary insight to develop a quick understanding of potential for success of your start-up company and its product offering in the market.

This information was taken from Robert’s new book: “Business Planning, Business Plans and Venture Funding – A Definitive Reference Guide for Start-up Companies”.  Available at www.amazon.com.  For more information on the book go to www.carlsbadpublishing.com.

October 12, 2009 Posted by | Business Planning, Venture Capital, venture finance, Venture Funding | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Entrepreneurs, Use General Technology and Market Trends to Define the Future for Your Start-up Company

The stock market always looks to the future.  This should also be true for first time entrepreneurs.  When defining your start-up company’s business proposition, you need to look at both the general technology and the general market trends of the future.  Why, because it is these general trends that will define the future market place for your technology, product or service offering.  General trends are often over looked by entrepreneurs, but venture capitalists always take a “big picture” view as to what technologies and markets will be pervasive five to ten years out in time. As is often the case, what is true and certain today regarding technologies and markets will not be true and certain five to ten years in the future. Therefore, as an entrepreneur you need to have a “big picture” view of the future and make sure your technology, product or service offering will have a role to play in the future, when defining a given market “problem” or “need”.  This article discusses the importance of creating this future frame work, based on general technology and market trends when presenting your technology, product or service offering to your potential investors.

Develop a Clear Understanding of the General Technology Trends

General technology trends change over an extended period of time.  Unlike the predictions often set forth by the technology pundits, a new technology does not take hold in the market in a year’s time frame. It often takes five to seven years or more for a new technology to take hold.  It even takes longer than that for a new technology to become pervasive and accepted by the general public.  Why, because there are many issues that come into play when rolling out a new technology.  These include the following:

  • Initial costs of new technologies are generally high,
  • Infrastructure roll-out takes time and is very expensive,
  • The new technology may not be ready for prime time, and
  • End-users do not always readily embrace new technologies.

These issues can substantially delay the rollout of new technologies.  But in the whole scheme of things, the entrepreneur must be aware of new, general technology trends, their timing and availability to the market.  In this context, having a good understanding of general technology trends, their availability, and how they can affect your start-up company’s product or service offering, in a positive or negative manner, is key to positioning your start-up company and its product offering in the future markets. Knowing and properly presenting your start-up company’s technology product or service offering in the context of these general technology trends will not only gain you credibility with your potential investors, it will provide the underlying and necessary credence to overall potential value of your start-up company and its technology, product or service offering. This is important, as investors need to know and believe that your start-up company’s technology, product or service offering has the ability to create long-term value in the context of the general technology trends of the market.

Review and Understand the General Market Trends

Knowing the general market trends is often a key to positioning your start-up company’s technology, product or service offering to your investors.  General market trends provide the “big picture” of what the future markets are going to look like.  What are the long-term market growth areas?  Will these market growth areas be the same as those markets today? What will the population look like in five to ten years? What will drive the long-term economic engine of the US and world economies?  These high-level general market trends need to be considered, understood and addressed by entrepreneurs looking to define the future for their start-up company’s technology, product or service offering.  Knowing and being able to appropriately define the general market trends of the future will provide potential investors with the necessary context as to how or why your start-up company’s technology, product or service offering will be important to addressing the “problems” or “needs” of future markets.  This is very important to investors, as they need to understand the “big picture” and how your start-up company’s technology, product or service offering will impact the markets of the future.

Define Your Start-up Company’s Product Offering in the Context of These General Technology and Market Trends

As an entrepreneur, remember you are trying to sell your technology, product or service offering to potential investors.  To properly do this you need to sell a vision.  Why, because a vision necessarily provides context, looks to the future, and requires an appropriate presentation of how your start-up company’s technology, product, or service offering fits within the general, future technology and market trends.  This vision necessarily needs to define your start-up company’s product offering in the context of both future technology and market trends.  Not doing so will necessarily hurt your efforts to convince investors of the potential future value of your start-up company and its technology, product or service offering.  By properly painting both the general technology trends and associated general market trends and how your start-up company’s technology, product or service offering provides an opportunity to secure a unique position with regard to these general trends, investors will then buy in to your vision and are much more apt to invest in your start-up company and its technology product or service offering.  Therefore, take the time to step back from your start-up company and its technology, product or service offering and take in the “big picture” in terms of both general technology and market trends.  This will allow you to develop the necessary context and associated vision for your start-up company. It will also allow you to provide the “big picture” contextual view to your potential investors, providing the necessary road to securing funding.

As an entrepreneur looking to present the future to your potential investors, you need to necessarily have a good handle on both the general technology and market trends.  This will allow to you provide the appropriate context as to how and why your start-up company’s technology, product or service offering will be both important to addressing these trends and how at the same time you are solving future “problems” and “needs” in support of these overall trends.  The bottom line is that by addressing these general, future technology and market trends, you will be providing your investors with a vision that allows them to see the future appropriately and how your technology, product or service offering will create value and play an important role in this future.

This information was taken from Robert’s new book: “Business Planning, Business Plans and Venture Funding – A Definitive Reference Guide for Start-up Companies”.  Available at www.amazon.com.  For more information on the book go to www.carlsbadpublishing.com.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Business Planning, concept, Venture Capital, venture finance, Venture Funding | , , | Leave a comment