As much as we think of ourselves as unique individuals that can create any product, we also like to fit in and be chosen. Just like those who fit in and were chosen before us. So, entrepreneurship isn’t especially natural, as it defies the human desire to fit in.
And then there is our need for security…
Crazy risks are something people fear. So most of us go with the flow and try not to make too many waves. But for some of us, that just isn’t enough. We don’t know what it is, but there is a force inside getting inspiration from other instincts. Something that drags us out of the comfort zone to push boundaries, travel further, jump higher…
They used to call them Explorers…
Now we are called Entrepreneurs.
It has been said by Reed Hoffman
“Starting a company is like throwing yourself off the cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down.”
Been there, done that… It was a rocky road. But I also tried to throw myself into Entrepreneurship with a reliable parachute – I kept my job (at least until the business was profitable) and started assembling my plane with these three steps that I found in the book: “How I built this” by Guy Raz
Step 1 Build the Vessel (Your Product)
Step 2 Assemble the Wings (Develop Your Strategy)
Step 3 Turn on the Jets (Generate Buzz)
Create product: Step 1 Build the Vessel (Your Product)
Raz says that a profitable product exists at the intersection of problems people have and problems you are
passionate about solving. I find that my passion for solving a problem typically results from having the problem myself.
A perfect example is Jen Rubio, founder of the luggage company Away. One day while flying through Zurich, Rubio’s suitcase broke and she had to sprint to her next flight while leaving a trail of underwear behind her.
At that moment, she vowed to buy the perfect bag and never suffer this embarrassment again. But when she got home and started researching travel bags, she could not find a reliable, affordable, great‐looking travel bag.
She called her friends, and they could not suggest any good options. The only options seemed to be
big box store luggage that looked like everyone else’s luggage or super high‐end luggage that cost more than a plane ticket.
This was an opportunity ‐ a real problem she was passionate about solving.
Rubio and her friend decided they would build a better suitcase, despite not having any experience in the luggage industry.
For the next few weeks, they went to every department store and luggage store in New York to compare the luggage on the market. Then they called dozens of factories to understand how they could manufacture luggage.
Thanks to their insatiable curiosity, Rubio and her business partner went from knowing nothing about luggage to becoming luggage experts. When it came time to create a product, they asked nearly 800 people open‐ended questions like,
“How do you pack?”
“What’s your biggest pain point when you’re traveling?”
In the book, Jen says,
“With some people we knew well, we would actually go over to their house and watch them pack… and that’s how we figured out how to make our perfect suitcase.”
So, Find a problem you are passionate about solving.
Then do research, build, test, and iterate your product until your target customer believes it solves their problem better than any solution on the market. Create a product everyone wants but no one made… yet
Step 2 Assemble the Wings (Develop Your Strategy)
The wings that allow your product to take flight are the strategy components: story and positioning.
When you have a good story, people are eager to recommend your product to their friends. And when you position your product to dominate a niche market, you gain momentum so that it becomes hard for competition to catch you or kill you.
A perfect example is RxBar. The founders of RxBar were sick of eating sugary protein bars with mystery ingredients so they created a protein bar in their kitchen with basic, wholesome ingredients. Or as they say
“No BS” – just 3 egg whites, 2 dates, and 6 almonds.
Their story resonated with their target market ‐ paleo and CrossFit athletes who valued transparency and were very mindful of what they put in their bodies.
RxBar started to grow without the fear of big protein bar manufacturers coming to crush them because they
positioned their product in a non‐threatening way ‐ they sold directly to customers online and at obscure locations like CrossFit gyms.
Big competitors didn’t take them seriously until RxBar dominated the CrossFit and paleo market and burst into the mainstream. But by that time RxBar had enough market share and momentum to withstand any
attack from the big protein bar manufacturers.
Create product: Step 3 Turn on the Jets (Generate Buzz)
The burst of energy you need from the jets before takeoff is like the buzz you need to generate before a product launch.
Think of a product launch like a movie release. You want to garner enough attention and hype so you get a rush of customers opening week, but then allow your product to grow by word of mouth. So we need to make sure there are people who experience our product to share it and tell their friends about it.
Before Instagram founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched Instagram in the Apple Store, they invited 100 designers and journalists to try Instagram out. The journalists had platforms that reached thousands of people, and the designers were active on forums like Dribble.
If the journalists and designers liked Instagram, they could be the authority to help get Instagram off the ground. Systrom and Krieger leveraged their network to connect with journalists and designers. Many ignored them, but some agreed to try their app.
Some who tried the app loved it and were eager to be the first to write about it. As you work your way up to your launch, reach out to people who have a modest following and can influence your target market. These might be bloggers on Medium, YouTubers, or people on Instagram.
If you can get enough early adopters to become evangelists for your product, you are well on your way to having an irresistable and successful product.
Great ideas often come from a simple spark: A soccer player on the New Zealand national team notices all the unused wool his country produces and figures out a way to turn them into shoes (Allbirds). A former Buddhist monk decides the very best way to spread his mindfulness teachings is by launching an app (Headspace). A sandwich cart vendor finds a way to reuse leftover pita bread and turns it into a multimillion-dollar business (Stacy’s Pita Chips).
Award-winning journalist and NPR host Guy Raz have interviewed more than 200 highly successful entrepreneurs to uncover amazing true stories. In How I Built This, he shares tips for every entrepreneur’s journey. From the early days of formulating your idea to raising money and recruiting employees. To fending off competitors, to finally paying yourself a real salary. This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever dreamed of starting their own business. Or if you wondered how trailblazing entrepreneurs made their own dreams a reality. And then you need the digital skills to make it happen…