Startups – go niche. Do it well. Make sure its repeatable
The Start Up Series by Company Connecting. Part Three.
In my previous article I wrote about having an idea and considering how that idea can become a business. I had identified my customer group as IT companies and anyone interested in IT. I was all set to find the IT companies and then discovered that this was not a straightforward or easy task.
I had a look at various sources on the web and it became clear that there were many IT companies out there, however it was difficulty to conduct searches that returned the granularity that I needed. So how on earth was I to find the companies?
I discovered that Companies House held information on companies, and categorized these at a high level via the SIC Code (Standard Industrial Classification). This still provided no means of identifying the nuts and bolts of what a company actually did. So still with my original business idea of supplying business related services to IT companies, I decided to create a methodology to research, review and categorise the data. Fortunately, at that time, I had absolutely no idea of the sheer enormity of the task – it was just a bit of experimentation on my part. Once I got started, I was fascinated by what I was discovering, and obsessed with finding out more. It was like a sort of madness which compelled me to keep going.
So is that what it takes to start something completely new? Something that is so gripping, that you work into the small hours of the night. You can see something but not quite grasp it. You want to know more and you want to build something. Is it all utter madness? Were my independent farming and engineering ancestors urging me on to do something completely different?
At this point someone pointed me to a series of lectures on startups by Sam Altman from ‘Y Combinator (http://startupclass.samaltman.com). There is loads of useful material for anyone starting or running a small company. Lecture one is presented by Sam Altman and Dustin Moskovitz (co-founder of Facebook). The Sam Altman section helped me to focus – basically: go niche, do it really well and make sure it is repeatable. Sam Altman, along with Business Gateway and various books I was reading gave me plenty of food for thought, but I still did not have a clear idea of what I was going to do. I did however now have a name for the company. Company Connecting was born.
To pivot or not to pivot?
Those involved or interested in Startups will know the term ‘pivot’. Basically it means that you make a change to the direction and strategy of your business. Generally, a pivot is in response to feedback or assessing market conditions. Pivoting enables companies to move forward sometimes in response to a ‘light bulb moment’. Examples of famous business pivots are PayPal, Groupon, and Instagram. PayPal ‘pivoted’ many times. It started out working with cryptography for handheld devices in 1998 and ended up as an enabler of electronic payments.
So I was reading all the books about startups, pivots, business planning, customer experience etc., The question for me was ‘to pivot or not to pivot’, and did I have a clear vision or was I getting dizzy pirouetting rather than pivoting? I had started out wanting to provide a service to IT companies, and now it looked like I was going to build a website and database which was like a search engine for IT companies. The common factor was ‘IT companies’ – but that was it.
I had some very difficult and fundamental decisions to make about the business, and which direction I would take. In my next article, I talk about these decisions and also the help I received from various parties. Starting a business can be very lonely, and it is good to have organisations and individuals to share experiences with.
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"Startups - go niche. Do it well. Make sure repeatable" First published on Company Connecting. Updated February 2023