Startup Myths: Reinventing The Wheel23 April, 2019 / Articles
In the worlds or startups and entrepreneurship, there’s a lot of rhetoric centered around disrupting marketplaces, shifting paradigms, or whatever sort of term you want to use to signify that a product is world-changing. Perhaps that’s a byproduct of the giant companies that we see plastered on websites and what remains of print media, companies that did, in fact, change the world, and now sit atop the heap as a consequence of their innovations. The example that Apple and Google and others have set forth informs prospective entrepreneurs that the path to overwhelming success is creating a revolutionary product that everyone will own or want to own, and changes how we operate as a society — simple enough, right?
What can get lost in the exaltation of these mega-successes are the more modest but still considerable successes of those that added their own innovation to others in order to create a better product. Karl Benz can be said to have changed the course of history with the invention of the car, but where would we be without the person who first thought to put a radio and speakers in a car? Likewise, thousands upon thousands of innovators have improved upon or added to concepts that already exist to give us the products we rely upon daily.
Being a successful founder doesn’t mean that you have to throw out everything that’s come before in order to try and build something entirely new, although if so inspired, you should certainly feel free to do just that. But not having a world-changing idea shouldn’t be a barrier to starting a business for those who still have something valuable to contribute to the marketplace. Here are some tips for those looking to nudge progress forward rather than attempt a quantum leap.
Focus on the realistic. In the same vein as not worrying about building the next revolutionary product, you likewise shouldn’t worry about your own innovations not being the most consequential step forward for a product or concept since its invention. Progress can be made in leaps and bounds, sure, but there are often incremental steps along the way that can inspire and facilitate later growth. And on a more practical level, most consumers aren’t holding out for monumental change that might never come, so why not get in the came with your own improvements? There’s an opportunity to be had, and maybe your experience will lead you to be the one to come up with the next breakthrough.
Needed improvements versus gilding the lily. When thinking about your ideas for improving an existing product, it’s worth considering the necessity and utility of that innovation relative to how it currently exists. While there are certain flourishes that you can add that might seem like an added value, most consumers have a strong sense of what is actually an improvement to the functionality and utility of a product versus what is just window dressing, especially those that aren’t willing to spend on extras. Make sure that whatever you’re adding is something that customers will want, and isn’t just something you wish to sell.
Do your research. In line with my focus on intellectual property issues, any creator looking to craft a product or an accessory should be sure that they’re the only one working on that particular innovation. We’d love to think that our genius is singular. But, with tens of thousands of other enterprising minds around the country, there’s at least a passing chance that someone came upon the same idea and had the wherewithal to put in the necessary paperwork for a patent or trademark. Doing a bit of searching on the U.S Patent and Trademark Office database for filings can help prevent you from spending time and money developing an idea that someone else already has rights to.
None of this should serve to discourage the biggest and boldest dreamers; indeed, we need people who dare greatly in order to tackle the biggest challenges and obstacles facing the world. But startups shouldn’t only be the province of huge ideas; we need and want any and all with notions big and small to be willing to try their hand at creating and building if we want to keep moving ideas forward. #onwards.