Product to Platform – the transition to a viable company

Think about where you are on this continuum and are you moving toward a threshold where your company is viable, serving a customer base with a common need. Great products in today’s technology marketplace partner with others to deliver a whole or integrated experience. Seems obvious however few early stage companies understand the value and role that others play in their future resulting in poor behavior as a partner.

The only way around this is to embrace the idea that your product/market fit needs to expand beyond the singular “Problem Fixed” stage. We all know that “problems fixed” are the peak of success for start-ups. “Great ideas” and “better solutions” come in second then the dreaded “Nice to have”.

That said when you get a “Problem fixed” you can start adding Nice to haves and a few “better solutions” to create a platform. Think of getting your toe hold in an industry by solving a problem, now expand to deliver a more highly configured solution for that industry then the common solution in an adjacent function.

Now you have a great platform solution for that industry and a platform for a viable strong company. Let’s dream up a MRP solution that serves the bread baking industry and they solve a Gluten free compliance problem. Great solution the industry starts buying and they are off to the races growing to an 80% market saturation position.

Now what? Sure there are POS solutions out there but what if one had a POS that tracked just bakery products and was easy to use as they tracked Gluten or spelt or rice sales and would leverage recipes for instant reorder of ingredients. Now you are adapting more common functions to create ease for your industry and a bigger footprint.

This will allow your “solution” to become a platform then company that lives beyond the gluten free phase of the industry lifecycle. This is where Product managers with cross domain experience become more valuable than those in Just from your segment or those that started with your company and share that initial experience.

Many start-ups focus after success on creating a new even hotter innovation. What if that innovation was broader custom solutions that end up part of a suite of components? Now you are truly servicing a customer persona, making marketing easier, improving the lives of other small business owners!

The bottom line is helping people live better or businesses to do what they do better. Rarely are our customers in the technology innovation business they are in the Baking or brewing or cleaning business. Technology should help them do more with less and do it better. They are not in the technology buying or process changing business.

Tim Bates