“No. Don’t blame me.” — Ken Segall (lol)

If you are among the ninety-five percent of startups that fail, chances are you should blame Ken Segall.

You see, many years ago, folks from Ken’s agency* found themselves sitting across a from Steve Jobs, who challenged them to capture Apple’s brand in a simplified message. They did, “Think different.”
(*Ken doesn’t own the agency)

People from all around the world gravitated toward Apple and embodied the meaning behind their slogan. The “think different” movement took off! It embraced Apple for how they captured a significant market in a tech world dominated by Windows and PCs. The “think different” cult was energized by the return and rise of Steve Jobs and Apple. The “think different” fanatics exalted the iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and culture of disruption Apple seemed today embody. Following in the footsteps of Apple’s core message, they then went on to think different as each of them entered their own world of startups and technology. Thinking different they all aimed to accomplish the same thing — disrupt the status quo. (Yeah, that’s a lot of speculation. But hey, everyone has been aiming for disruption and I want, in fact I need, to blame someone. Ken Segall is as good of a target as anyone).

So, because of Ken (just go with it) we have a community obsessed with disruption. And it’s crazy! Disrupting this, disrupting that, the drive to develop a disruptive company while really doing nothing disruptive, at that.

Well, that was the plan. Unfortunately, many startups, in fact, the overwhelming majority — unbeknownst to them apparently — were and still are actually creating sustainable innovations. Still yet, they position themselves, market themselves, manage themselves, and do everything in the name of disruption. As I mentioned in my previous post, Stop Diminishing Disruption, your startup will fail 100% of the time— ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF THE TIME — you take a sustainable innovation down the path of a disruptive innovation, or if you take a disruptive innovation down the path of a sustainable innovation— 100% of the time! 100%!

No, you won’t have foolproof success by doing this but the odds are dramatically better than 100% guaranteed fresh out the box cut-and-dry doom-and-gloom failure.

Give your startup a fighting chance. If it’s a sustainable innovation, embrace your sustainable innovation. Own it. All disruptive innovations must eventually take the path of sustainable innovations by moving up market and offering incremental improvements. No, it’s not sexy. In fact, it’s often kind of boring. Occasionally, there’s a cool sustainable innovation. Probably not yours, but who cares? It can be very lucrative. In fact, if you prove out your sustainable innovation well enough chances are you’ll be acquired by an leading company in the field. LinkedIn acquired Conspire, Facebook acquired WhatsApp, and so many other examples out there. In fact, Rize is a perfect example of a sustainable innovation that will be acquired by a major bank before you know it. There’s nothing disruptive about what they do, but it’s necessary and the natural incremental improvement on banking and upmarket progression.

If you want to embrace your sustainable innovation, be sure to accept the following and do the following:

  • It will cost more to compete and stand out in a crowded space. Plan for it when raising money. Think Pepsi vs. Coke — or — Hulu vs. Netflix — or — WCW vs. WWE (old school). Someone had a significant market share doing nearly the exact same thing. It cost money to get notice.
  • Your customers already have an established solution to their problem. Abide by the norms and values established by the incumbents companies. It matters to your customers.
  • Identify the “job to be done” your specific customers have so you can distinguish yourself in a crowded space. (see Disruptive Innovation: A Checklist). You’re not competing against products or services, you’re competing to have your product do a job better than an existing solution.
  • It seems like it goes without saying, but make sure you have a better mousetrap otherwise the established customers won’t buy your product.
  • Accept that you’re developing a sustainable innovation, and make a shirt that reads “I sustained” — OR — make a disruptive innovation by rethinking your product/service and make sure it meets the criteria of a disruptive innovation. (Disruptive Innovation: A Checklist)

Or, continue to think different and believe that you will be the first person to disrupt a market with a sustainable innovation and when you fail remember to blame Ken Segall.

Recommended Reading
Insanely Simple, by Ken Segall
The Innovator’s Solution, by Clayton Christensen

"I just want to have a kickass time and live in service to God's will." -Rainn Wilson

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