We’ve all heard the stat that most startups are doomed to failure. Many times it’s because the wrong team is put in place. Sometimes it’s bad timing. Other times it’s funding, or unwillingness to pivot. But as I stated in my previous post, “How Big Is The Problem You’re Solving,” most startups just aren’t meeting a major market need. In other words, the pain of business as usual just isn’t that high.
But that’s not your startup, right?! You KNOW yours is a good idea, with a huge market to address and it solves a huge problem you’re very familiar with. RIGHT?!
You may not be able to know right away how big your customer’s problem is until you start discovery- in other words, sitting down with prospects and asking questions about their people, processes, and tools. And identifying where your solution and capabilities can match up with any gaps you identify. Overall, you need to stop building and start selling to be flexible and address the real needs of the market.
This process takes time, years even, depending on the structure of your sales and dev teams.
But there’s one question you can ask to know if you have a good idea or not, which is: are companies currently building and maintaining internal, “home grown” tools to solve this issue? If so, you might be sitting on a gold mine.
Home grown solutions are extremely common. Usually they are formed as projects by extremely smart employees simply because there’s no off the shelf tool or approach available. Some real world examples I’ve seen:
- Using Microsoft Excel to develop a capital project plan, Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), schedule, and budget- now solved by tools like Primavera P6, EcoSys, Planview, and other now major software providers
- Quantifying Environment, Health, and Safety data in an access database- now solved by dozens of EHS solutions like Enablon and Sphera
- Trying to quantify the condition of infrastructure using a workbook and basic statistics- solved by automated Machine Learning technology like Fracta
All of these companies are solving big issues using COTS, also known as Commercial Off the Shelf Solutions, and have been extremely successful. But why are off the shelf software products so successful? Two reasons- cost and scale.
These days, software can be created, deployed, maintained, and updated relatively automatically. This requires only a handful of resources from the software provider, who charges a company a nominal, annual fee. This approach is predictable and low risk.
If a company decides to build a tool internally, it requires a tremendous amount of resources to create and maintain. More developers, more subject matter experts, and more time. And the end result? Won’t contain all the updates and industry best practices a COTS will provide.
See your prospects fumbling with internal tools? You might also see green.