Forget Inventing New Ideas, Try Improving What's Out There

"Everyone is trying to come up with the next new app idea or Shark Tank hero — but it seems like a lot of the most innovative companies right now are just putting a new spin on old products. What's the value in just re-thinking existing stuff that we know works?”

February 26th, 2020   |    By: Wil Schroter

While the novelty of creating the next Facebook sounds amazing, the truth is we don't need to necessarily invent a product to bring a new innovation to market.

If we look closely, we'll see that some of the fastest-growing companies out there — Uber, Casper, Dollar Shave Club and dare I say it, WeWork — are all based on ancient business models with a new twist.

Start With This: "What's Wrong With Current Products?"

Look, Uber didn't invent taxis — they just simply asked, "What's broken about the taxi business?" (Well, the limo business initially but who's tracking?) Any of us would be hard-pressed to find an existing product or service that couldn't use a ton of improvement.

What customers care most about is the improvement. Maybe that's increasing convenience (an app for taxis, yay!) or just simplifying the logistics process (my mattress delivered to my doorstep!).

It doesn't take a ton to breathe new life into dormant ideas, but it does have a massive impact.

Give an Old Product a New Twist

Every year the world changes so fast that we have to constantly ask ourselves, "How do the top trends in technology, product development and marketing affect every business out there today?"

These new trends can create entirely new business models for startups, like Dollar Shave Club taking the oldest recurring business model in history (replaceable shavers), giving it a new tech viral marketing twist, and going on to sell for over a billion dollars to Unilever.

The great thing about giving old products a new twist is we don't have to invent demand. People already need razors. What we need to do is take advantage of a changing landscape to drive market share.

There's so much value in entering proven markets with conditioned buyers versus trying to explain to the world what the hell our novel idea is.

Most Products are Just Poorly Run

Just because an incumbent product or company exists, that doesn't mean it's well run. Think about all of the places we frequent — are they all killing it on every front?

Probably not.

It's nearly impossible to build a business anymore that is fully defensible the way things used to be.

On top of that, once products hit a certain threshold in the evolution in a company, the people that work there are often way less motivated to be the best. Founders get the benefit of fresh legs, fresh perspective, and in most cases, a ton more upside than the people who are currently serving an old product.

So let's worry less about invention and focus a bit more on innovation. Novelty just adds complexity.

In Case You Missed It

How Much Should I Budget for an MVP? "I've got this incredible idea for an app in my head and I'm thinking about building the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) with a developer. I've never done this before, so I'm afraid of spending too much money. What should I do here?"

Everyone Says My Idea is Dumb. Is It? Becoming a Founder is often the first time in our lives where the advice of others — even our parents — may not necessarily be useful advice. So let’s be hyper-aware about how we get feedback and who we're asking to evaluate our idea.

What is Product Differentiation? As Founders, how do we clarify the differences between our products and other products on the market while preventing overlap between the offerings?

About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual.  He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement).  After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do.  He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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