Real-World Value Litmus Test for Startups


Maybe it’s because I studied a decent amount of economics in school, but I think the first step in marketing anything on a large scale is to know the economic conditions and trends you’re selling into. The best products will address gaps and problems being actively discussed on the public record. While a valuable product will sell regardless of economic conditions, strategic positioning can still be influenced by astute economic observations.

The best place to get a quick overview of macro trends and conditions is by paying attention to quality newspapers. As an example, here are paraphrased quotes lifted from Sunday’s New York Times Business Section and Magazine:

By 2010, China will have more Ph.D. scientists and engineers than the United States. These professionals are not fundamentally a threat. To the contrary, they are creators, whose ideas are likely to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, not just the business elites. The more access the Chinese have to American and other markets, the more they can afford higher education and the greater their incentive to innovate.

In Africa and Asia the number of urban dwellers will double between 2000 and 2030.

10% of the world’s population lived in cities during 1900. Now (2008) 50% of the world’s population lives in cities and by 2050 it will be 75%.

Oil is currently at a record setting $139/barrel.

Executive compensation, transparency and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance mean companies need increased internal accountability.

A strong Thursday, and an awful Friday in the stock market. No one is quite sure what to make of the economy.

Umair Haque often talks about the need for successful startups to solve real-world problems. Based only on the issues I pulled from Sunday’s paper, I can quickly make a case for Workstreamer addressing real-world issues.

First, online collaboration among dispersed teams is undoubtedly going to increase. Globalization means that we can now work with specialists located anywhere in the world and the internet will be our primary collaboration mechanism. Workstreamer can be the platform.

Second, the cost of oil means that businesses have an incentive to encourage telecommuting. An unstable economy means that businesses are looking for cost effective solutions that can save them money or provide a return on investment. Again, Workstreamer can help.

Third, the need for greater internal accountability means that a solution superior to email from the perspective of workflow is a compelling business proposition. Again, Workstreamer can help solve a major issue.

While we will not focus our marketing on either of these themes, as a quick litmus test it is reassuring to see that our product has the potential for real-world impact within current economic conditions.


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