"We were thinking about using data on restaurants and parking to help diners have a more enjoyable dining experience. What do you think about that idea?"
This question opened a session with a first-time startup team yesterday evening (from my Cornell University class). From then on it was an intense workshop addressing the question "What can you make from this initial idea that can move it forward so it becomes a great idea for a great business?"
Most startups begin that way (vague, weak first idea) and the founders have the determination and intuition that drives them to start changing the first idea so it becomes something much more compelling ("cool") to a vast majority of end users and customers ("scaleable").
But that is not easy. Yet serial entrepreneurs can do it swiftly and very effectively.
So let's get you to understand the process the veterans use to lift their first idea up to "the next level".
- "We are going to use data to help diners know how long the wait time is before getting a table and help them find a parking space. We see our expertise being in allocation of scarcity."
- Q: You must focus on either helping a restaurant or a the dining person. Which do you want:
- A: Let's focus on helping the restaurants.
- Q: What is The Big Problem you are going to solve for restaurants?
- A: Diners not frustrated.
- Q: Isn't that a non-problem for restaurants that are constantly selling all the seats every dining time?
- A: Yes, well, then we have to help the other restaurants, the not-full places.
- Q: How could you help the underperforming restaurants fill more seats?
- We could use their customer data to email and advertise to their Ideal Customers.
- Q: How about using operations research technology to analyse the patterns of booking reservations (like hotels do), predict the outcome (unless action is taken), and send out email alerts (to smart phones, PCs, pads) that a bargin (e.g. for next Tuesday Lunch is a 2:1 free desert)or other discount/coupon)?
- A: Cool, and we could help them find the place on a map!
- Q: What could you do for people visiting a resort area and looking at the last minute for a place for dinner?
- A: We could use location based technology to alert their quiries of Google Maps about local restaurants are nearby. Instant find, instant (automated) booking, walk in to your seats!
- Q: What could you do for a hockey game fan?
- A: Well we could reserve a parking space, give Best Driving directions, and maybe suggest near-by restaurants!
- Q: Anything else for the sports fan?
- A: We could offer near-by lodging and maybe discounts booked through us!
And so on the discussion went.
Notice how the movement went to using existing technologies to build a more focused, more compelling service.
The end result was a combination of Google + FourSquare + Open Table + Groupon. It was very different than the initial idea.
BOTTOM LINE: Serial entrepreneurs move swiftly from initial idea ("dream", "vision") to focus, add value, increase complexity and emerge with a loud "WOW!" idea for the new enterprise. Combinations of existing business models, technologies and marketing methods transform a weak first idea into a more powerful one. As more work is done (in secret), the idea grows more and more powerful. The serial entrepreneur does not stop until he has a plan that he is confident can be executed to deliver a powerful unfair competitive advantage. When you can do that with an idea, you'll have advanced into the halls of those few who can become serial entrepreneurs. It is worth the hard work and brain straining.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!