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5 innovative insights to get started with your start-up!

Startups have changed the world. In the United States, many startups, such as Tesla, Apple, and Amazon, have become household names. The economic value of startups has doubled since 1992 and is projected to double again in the next fifteen years.

As venture capitalist Alexandre Lazarow shows in this insightful and instructive book, this Silicon Valley ‘gospel’ is due for a refresh–and it comes from what he calls the ‘frontier,’ the growing constellation of startup ecosystems, outside of the Valley and other major economic centers, that now stretches across the globe. The frontier is a truly different world where startups often must cope with political or economic instability and lack of infrastructure, and where there might be little or no access to angel investors, venture capitalists, or experienced employee pools.

Here’s a glimpse into some of these insights for all you future entrepreneurs!


Learn from the microfinance industry

‘In [the industry’s] early days, a key insight was that the poor were creditworthy borrowers. By placing borrowers into groups with a sense of strong social accountability and shared responsibility on the loans’ repayment, microfi nance lenders found that repayment rates were high.

But this insight was also the biggest challenge: the in-person nature of putting people in groups, making regular visits to collect money, and maintaining deep customer engagement is expensive. Companies like Tala, Branch International, and Safaricom’s own M-Shwari now offer consumer loans, relying entirely on the mobile money platform.’

Front cover of Out-Innovate
Out-Innovate || Alexandre Lazarow


Create rather than disrupt

‘Timbo Drayson founded OkHi, a technology-driven startup that creates addresses where there are none. OkHi’s mission statement is “Be Included.”

Creators do three fundamental things simultaneously. First, they offer a product or service that solves an unserved, acute pain point in the formal economy. Second, Creators offer a solution for the mass market. Finally, Creators are focused on game-changing innovations that fundamentally rethink a market and a sector.’


Raise a camel, not a unicorn

‘The growth-at-all-cost model simply does not translate to the realities of the Frontier. Instead of the unicorn, then, I propose the camel as the more appropriate mascot. Camels live in and adapt to multiple climates. They can survive without food or water for months. Their humps, primarily composed of fat, protect them from the desert’s scorching heat. When they do find water, they can rehydrate faster than any other animal.15 Camels are not imaginary creatures living in fictitious lands. They are resilient and can survive in the harshest places on earth.

Signing up for Silicon Valley’s unicorn-hunting strategy is a bit like mortgaging your home to buy three new homes. If things go well and the market moves in the right direction, then the rewards are massive. Facebook’s eye-watering returns for investors are a case in point. Yet this approach also increases the likelihood of losing everything.’


Build A-teams, don’t hire just A-players

‘…in Silicon Valley, companies and employees see their relationships as short-term affairs. Retention rates are among the lowest in the United States. More than 13 percent of staff turn over every year, and in certain job categories like user design, the rate is well above 20 percent, which translates to short employee tenure.

Frontier Innovators […] use fi ve key strategies to build and scale top teams. They test candidates for behavior and capabilities, develop a proprietary talent pipeline, leverage global distributed options, take a growth mindset to retention and training, and think critically about compensation and perks.’



‘Frontier Innovators […] cross-pollinate. They leverage diverse lived experiences, often across multiple geographies, industries, and sectors, to build their businesses. They tap global networks for capital and resources.

At the Frontier, a typical innovator’s lived experience is longer and spans geographies, sectors, and industries. This diversity in experience explains the issues they choose to tackle and the unique approaches they employ.’


With rich and wide-ranging stories of frontier innovators from around the world, Out-Innovate is the new playbook for innovation–wherever it has the potential to happen.


Jeffrey Bussgang is a venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and professor at Harvard Business School. In his book, Entering StartUpLand you seek your ideal entry point into this popular, cutting-edge organizational paradigm. It is a practical, step-by-step guide that provides an insider’s analysis of various start-up roles and responsibilities. You’ll gain insight into how successful startups operate and learn to assess which ones you might want to join–or emulate.
When I was head of Marketing at one of my startups, our sales director in Australia came to our annual sales meeting bearing a gift for me: a boomerang. He said it was because I always came back to him with answers to his questions when he was in the field chasing sales opportunities. I keep that boomerang in my office to this day and still think about how much field sales people appreciate it when the marketing team gets back to them in a timely, responsive fashion. For a marketing executive, being customer focused means paying attention to your internal customers as well as your external ones.
When entrepreneurs discuss with me the reasons they need to raise money for their startups, the focus is typically placed first on building the product and then selling it. The two most expensive functions at a startup are the product team and the sales team. Marketing profoundly affects them both: on one side, it heavily influences product design; on the other, it focuses and supports Sales. So the marketing function is like the productivity engine of the startup. When a startup has a great marketing function, the product and sales teams both look amazingly productive, and nobody knows why. Everybody typically credits the head of Sales and the head of Product, but behind the scenes, it’s Marketing that makes them look good.
Marketing, in other words, is the unsung hero of the startup.
Strangely, startups often hire marketing people too late. First they hire the team required to build the product—product managers or engineers. Then they hire one or two salespeople to sell the product. Remember the organization chart for my twelve-person startup in chapter 1 (figure 1-2)? There are zero marketing people. It’s a common mistake.
Typically, the first marketing person might get hired as employee number twenty or thirty, often after a startup hits a snag. Perhaps the sales force has become unproductive and is idling. So the startup scrambles to get a marketing function installed quickly to help. By then, though, it’s often too late. When a startup misses its sales numbers, the sales people get blamed. But the problem, typically, is not that the salespeople are incompetent; it’s that the startup lacks marketers who can generate leads and acquisitions for those salespeople. As a result, Sales is either getting bad leads or no leads at all. They’re lacking the good, competitive weapons that skilled marketers can provide, so they’re struggling to win.
That’s when the company needs Marketing. It needs Marketing to provide support for Sales.
Grab a copy of the book: Entering StartUpLand 


Competing on Analytics with External Processes

Competing on Analytics provides the road map for becoming an analytical competitor, showing readers how to create new strategies for their organizations based on sophisticated analytics. Introducing a five-stage model of analytical competition, Davenport and Harris describe the typical behaviors, capabilities and challenges of each stage. It is the definitive guide for transforming your company’s fortunes in the age of analytics and big data.

Thomas H. Davenport is the President’s Distinguished Professor of IT and Management at Babson College and a research fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. Jeanne G. Harris is on the faculty at Columbia University, where she teaches Business Analytics Management.
The  great  challenge  for  brand  managers  in  the  current  age,  however, is developing a closed loop of analytics describing how customers interact with a brand across multiple channels. With this information, brands can learn not only what ads and promotions customers see, but how  they  react  in  terms  of click-throughs,  conversions,  and  service. Most  companies  find  it  difficult  to  marshal  all  this  data  and  make sense of it with analytics.
One company that does do it well, however, is Disney’s Parks and Resorts business unit. The business has long been highly analytical, optimizing hotel prices, ride times, and marketing offers. Now, however, due to a “vacation management” project called MyMagic+ that cost over $1 billion and began in 2008, it is able to close the loop on how all that marketing translates into a customer experience. The ambitious goal of MyMagic+ is to provide a more magical, immersive, seamless and personal experience for every single guest. From the beginning of planning a Disney park or hotels reservation, the customer is encouraged to register and to supply an email address. The customer can plan a family trip (and, at the same time, register all family members or friends participating in the trip) with the MyDisneyExperience website or app. Disney is then able to learn what activities the customer is considering and what web pages engage different family members. Customers are also encouraged to sign up for the FastPass+ service, which offers them shorter wait times; in exchange, they share information  about  the  park  attractions,  entertainment  options,  and  even greetings from Disney characters they intend to experience.
What really closes the loop for Disney, however, is the MagicBand. Rolled out in 2013, these wristbands are typically mailed to a family before its visit starts. From the customer’s standpoint, it allows access to the park and hotel rooms, FastPass+ entry to attractions at specific times,  and   in-park and hotel purchases. It also stores photos taken with  Disney  characters,  and  allows  the  characters  to  have  personalized  interactions  with  kids.  From  Disney’s  standpoint,  it  provides  a  goldmine  of  data,  including  customer  locations,  character  interactions, purchase histories, ride patterns, and much more. If customers opt in, Disney will send personalized offers to them during their stay and after they return home.
The  scale  and  expense  of  the  MyMagic+  system  is  reflective  of the fact that the ante has been raised for competing on analytics. It may  take  a  while  for  Disney  to  recoup  its  billion-dollar  investment in this closed loop system, but the company has already seen operational benefits in being able to admit more customers to parks on busy days. There is also a belief that the system will deter customers from visiting competitor parks. Key to the ultimate value of the program, however, will be extensive analytics on how marketing and branding programs translate into actual customer activity.
Find this book:- Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning 

Reintroduce Yourself

Reinventing You provides a step-by-step guide to help you assess your unique strengths, develop a compelling personal brand and ensure that others recognize the powerful contribution you can make. Branding expert Dorie Clark mixes personal stories with engaging interviews and examples from Mark Zuckerberg, Al Gore, Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin and others to show you how to think big about your professional goals, take control of your career and finally live the life you want.

Small, tangible signals are only part of the battle, however, the biggest challenge is changing your behavior to reflect your new goals and reality. For over a decade, Dan had worked at a large, international technology company, ascending to the rank of engineering director. But when he decided to leave for a newer tech company with a hip reputation, he realized his résumé had some baggage attached. His previous employer was well-known and respected by the public, but in tech circles, it was viewed as an old-line behemoth, resistant to change and full of stuffy bureaucrats, not exactly the image he wanted to project to his new colleagues. “I had to work to get other people to understand I was comfortable in the new environment,” he says. “It’s a grassroots culture, so I had to start building relationships and trust. It was lots of time ‘managing by walking around,’ being as visible as possible. With anything that smacked of a big company, like having a standing staff meeting, I overreacted against it.”
Dan realized he had to make connections quickly to shape his colleagues’ perception of him, but he was starting at a disadvantage. “I discovered my entire personal network was at [my previous employer],” he recalls. “I decided I shouldn’t be in that situation again.” So he embarked on a networking campaign to deepen his connections both inside and outside his new company, and in the process, build a reputation as a forward-thinking, connected executive who understood industry trends. But there was only one problem: his personality.“I’m a fairly introverted guy,”Dan says.“I hate taking these meetings with strangers, the idea of a meeting that’s not going to help me get the job I have in front of me done, or getting to know people without an action item.”
But he forced himself to persist. “I realized it was important, that by the time you need connections, you can’t suddenly make them. You have to be ready.” These days, while his night-owl engineering team is sleeping in, Dan has a steady regimen of breakfast meetings including “people in my industry at other companies, executive search people, leaders at small companies, venture capitalists, a guy who works on corporate turnarounds.” When it comes to making connections, Dan says, “the biggest change is my default answer used to be no, and now my default answer is yes. I’ve focused on reasons to say yes.”
His networking has paid off. He’s now on the pulse of start-ups to acquire and knows which ones are going down (and from which he can poach talent). He’s made himself indispensable to his company and the furthest thing from an old school, bureaucratic manager. In fact, he’s found ways to play with his background and upend expectations. When he discovered his new company required receipts for all travel expenses above $25, whereas his old firm’s threshold was $75, he shook up his colleagues by letting them know it was less bureaucratic at his old company and suggested they change the policy. He recalls with pleasure: “I could use negative branding to my advantage.” And he knows that if he wants to change jobs in the future, he’s positioned himself with the contacts and branding he needs to land securely.
Find this book: Reinventing You

The Elements of a Successful Business Model

EVERY SUCCESSFUL COMPANY ALREADY operates according to an effective business model. By systematically identifying all of its constituent parts, executives can understand how the model fulfills a potent value proposition in a profitable way using certain key resources and key processes. With that understanding, they can then judge how well the same model could be used to fulfill a radically different CVP—and what they’d need to do to construct a new one, if need be, to capitalize on that opportunity.
When Ratan Tata of Tata Group looked out over this scene, he saw a critical job to be done: providing a safer alternative for scooter families. He understood that the cheapest car available in India cost easily five times what a scooter did and that many of these families could not afford one. Offering an affordable, safer, all-weather alternative for scooter families was a powerful value proposition, one with the potential to reach tens of millions of people who were not yet part of the car-buying market. Ratan Tata also recognized that Tata Motors’ business model could not be used to develop such a product at the needed price point.
At the other end of the market spectrum, Hilti, a Liechtensteinbased manufacturer of high-end power tools for the construction industry, reconsidered the real job to be done for many of its current customers. A contractor makes money by finishing projects; if the required tools aren’t available and functioning properly, the job doesn’t get done. Contractors don’t make money by owning tools; they make it by using them as efficiently as possible. Hilti could help contractors get the job done by selling tool use instead of the tools themselves—managing its customers’ tool inventory by providing the best tool at the right time and quickly furnishing tool repairs, replacements, and upgrades, all for a monthly fee. To deliver on that value proposition, the company needed to create a fleetmanagement program for tools and in the process, shift its focus from manufacturing and distribution to service. That meant Hilti had to construct a new profit formula and develop new resources and new processes.
The most important attribute of a customer value proposition is its precision: how perfectly it nails the customer job to be done—and nothing else. But such precision is often the most difficult thing to achieve. Companies trying to create the new often neglect to focus on one job; they dilute their efforts by attempting to do lots of things. In doing lots of things, they do nothing really well.
One way to generate a precise customer value proposition is to think about the four most common barriers keeping people from getting particular jobs done: insufficient wealth, access, skill, or time. Software maker Intuit devised QuickBooks to fulfill smallbusiness owners’ need to avoid running out of cash. By fulfilling that job with greatly simplified accounting software, Intuit broke the skills barrier that kept untrained small-business owners from using more-complicated accounting packages. MinuteClinic, the drugstore-based basic health care provider, broke the time barrier that kept people from visiting a doctor’s office with minor health issues by making nurse practitioners available without appointments.
Designing a profit formula
Ratan Tata knew the only way to get families off their scooters and into cars would be to break the wealth barrier by drastically decreasing the price of the car. “What if I can change the game and make a car for one lakh?” Tata wondered, envisioning a price point of around US$2,500, less than half the price of the cheapest car available. This, of course, had dramatic ramifications for the profit formula: It required both a significant drop in gross margins and a radical reduction in many elements of the cost structure. He knew; however, he could still make money if he could increase sales volume dramatically, and he knew that his target base of consumers was potentially huge.
For Hilti, moving to a contract management program required shifting assets from customers’ balance sheets to its own and generating revenue through a lease/subscription model. For a monthly fee, customers could have a full complement of tools at their fingertips, with repair and maintenance included. This would require a fundamental shift in all major components of the profit formula: the revenue stream (pricing, the staging of payments, and how to think about volume), the cost structure (including added sales development and contract management costs), and the supporting margins and transaction velocity.
Identifying key resources and processes
Having articulated the value proposition for both the customer and the business, companies must then consider the key resources and processes needed to deliver that value. For a professional services firm, for example, the key resources are generally its people, and the key processes are naturally people related (training and development, for instance). For a packaged goods company, strong brands and well-selected channel retailers might be the key resources, and associated brand-building and channel-management processes among the critical processes.
Oftentimes, it’s not the individual resources and processes that make the difference but their relationship to one another. Companies will almost always need to integrate their key resources and processes in a unique way to get a job done perfectly for a set of customers. When they do, they almost always create enduring competitive advantage. Focusing first on the value proposition and the profit formula makes clear how those resources and processes need to interrelate. For example, most general hospitals offer a value proposition that might be described as, “We’ll do anything for anybody.” Being all things to all people requires these hospitals to have a vast collection of resources (specialists, equipment, and so on) that can’t be knit together in any proprietary way. The result is not just a lack of differentiation but dissatisfaction.
By contrast, a hospital that focuses on a specific value proposition can integrate its resources and processes in a unique way that delights customers. National Jewish Health in Denver, for example, is organized around a focused value proposition we’d characterize as, “If you have a disease of the pulmonary system, bring it here. We’ll define its root cause and prescribe an effective therapy.” Narrowing its focus has allowed National Jewish to develop processes that integrate the ways in which its specialists and specialized equipment work together.
For Tata Motors to fulfill the requirements of its customer value proposition and profit formula for the Nano, it had to reconceive how a car is designed, manufactured, and distributed. Tata built a small team of fairly young engineers who would not, like the company’s more-experienced designers, be influenced and constrained in their thinking by the automaker’s existing profit formulas. This team dramatically minimized the number of parts in the vehicle, resulting in a significant cost saving. Tata also reconceived its supplier strategy, choosing to outsource a remarkable 85% of the Nano’s components and use nearly 60% fewer vendors than normal to reduce transaction costs and achieve better economies of scale.
At the other end of the manufacturing line, Tata is envisioning an entirely new way of assembling and distributing its cars. The ultimate plan is to ship the modular components of the vehicles to a combined network of company-owned and independent entrepreneur-owned assembly plants, which will build them to order. The Nano will be designed, built, distributed, and serviced in a radically new way—one that could not be accomplished without a new business model. And while the jury is still out, Ratan Tata may solve a traffic safety problem in the process.
This is an excerpt from HBR’s 10 Must Reads (On Strategy). Get your copy here.
Credit: Abhishek Singh

Understanding Strategic Positioning

Three key principles underlie strategic positioning.

  1. Strategy is the creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities: Strategic position emerges from three distinct sources:
  • serving few needs of many customers (Jiffy Lube provides only auto lubricants)
  • serving broad needs of few customers (Bessemer Trust targets only very high-wealth clients)
  • serving broad needs of many customers in a narrow market (Carmike Cinemas operates only in cities with a population under 200,000)
  1. 2. Strategy requires you to make trade-offs in competing—to choose what not to do. Some competitive activities are incompatible; thus, gains in one area can be achieved only at the expense of another area. For example, Neutrogena soap is positioned more as a medicinal product than as a cleansing agent. The company says “no” to sales based on deodorizing, gives up large volume, and sacrifices manufacturing efficiencies. By contrast, Maytag’s decision to extend its product line and acquire other brands represented a failure to make difficult trade-offs: the boost in revenues came at the expense of return on sales.
  2. Strategy involves creating “fit” among a company’s activities. Fit has to do with the ways a company’s activities interact and reinforce one another. For example, Vanguard Group aligns all of its activities with a low-cost strategy; it distributes funds directly to consumers and minimizes portfolio turnover. Fit drives both competitive advantage and sustainability: when activities mutually reinforce each other, competitors can’t easily imitate them. When Continental Lite tried to match a few of Southwest Airlines’ activities, but not the whole interlocking system, the results were disastrous.

Employees need guidance about how to deepen a strategic position rather than broaden or compromise it. About how to extend the company’s uniqueness while strengthening the fit among its activities. This work of deciding which target group of customers and needs to serve requires discipline, the ability to set limits, and forthright communication. Clearly, strategy and leadership are inextricably linked.
This is an excerpt from HBR’s 10 Must Reads (On Strategy). Get your copy here.
Credit: Abhishek Singh

6 Fascinating Political Strategy Pointers from a Gujarati Classic

K.M. Munshi was one of Gujarat’s most well-known literary writers. Munshi’s Glory of Patan, the first book in the epic trilogy is a landmark and bestselling classic in Gujarat. A mix of romance and politics, this fast-paced saga  is sure to delight readers of historical fiction.
Here are six fascinating points of political strategy from the K. M. Munshi’s masterpiece.
Honour Comes First
The Glory of Patan Blog 01
One Kingdom, One Rule
The Glory of Patan Blog 02
Where Expediency Matters
The Glory of Patan Blog 03
Winning is Everything
The Glory of Patan Blog 04
Measured Tactics, Calculated Risks
The Glory of Patan Blog 05
Religion’s Nemesis
The Glory of Patan Blog 06
Get the bestselling epic about a key moment in Gujarat’s history here!
The Glory of Patan_1

Politics and the Art of Branding

Political parties and consumer brands have more in common than you think, both have a set of target consumers and specific marketing strategies.
Here are a few things that political parties can learn from consumer brands
Leveraging Technology
Brand Proposition
Brand Ambassador
Youthful Brand Offering
Brand Slogan
Authenticity of Brands
Can you think of any more tips that political parties must bear in mind while planning their marketing campaign? Tell us in the comments.

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