Wednesday, 29 August 2007

What type of web startup are you?

Rail Mail Sorting Slots
Originally uploaded by Potjie
I had a very thought provoking conversation yesterday with Lee Strafford the former CEO of Plusnet about web companies. One part of the conversation I think might be interesting was around classifying the different types of such companies by the way in which they build competitive barriers:
Class of barrierCharacteristics
Tech HeavySome piece of technology is strikingly difficult to do, perhaps requiring realtime communication or tricky client software to make it work. These companies can take a little longer and can raise money earlier in the adoption lifecycle due to the inherent IP. We've got a couple of these in the works, but they're in no hurry to tell the world what they're up to!
Execution orientatedIn these cases the company is not doing anything that technically that groundbreaking, but they're getting the business model, user experience, pricing etc. right in a way incumbents with more inertia would struggle to do. Here the key is about speed and quality of execution. I think I'd probably put Yuuguu in this category at the moment...
Critical mass orientatedLots of web1.0 gravestones here! This is where you have to find ways to get the kind of critical mass of users which means that the service can gain a strong lead. This is more like the Facebook model. To be honest we've only tried this once and we ran out of capital before we reached critical mass. You can't sell these early and the key is probably to find ways to reach that early audience cheaply. I believe that Facebook did this early by getting links with US colleges.

Perhaps it's interesting to think which model fits your company best, and then what that implies for strategy?