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The shocking case of blind startups!

The shocking case of blind startups!

Photo of Oscar Keys on Unsplash

The market is the one and only true funder of your startup: everything else, if you are able to satisfy the funder, comes accordingly!

This week let me to temporarily interrupt the series on artificial intelligence in marketing: I will resume it soon, but I cannot postpone further some shocking considerations on the above topic.

Just in the last few days I have had the opportunity to attend the presentation of about 20 projects by as many aspiring strartuppers who are starting a new edition of the “Becoming Entrepreneurs” course sponsored by a major industry association.

Although this is the fifth year that I have participated as a lecturer in this initiative, this is the first time that I am making up my mind about something that I find quite upsetting.

I think I put so much into it for two main reasons:

  • on the one hand, I am fresh from the experience of managing the project that produced “Best Practices on Organizations’ Market Orientation” (Prassi di Riferimento sull’Orientamento al Mercato delle Organizzazioni) published by UNI Ente Italiano di Normazione (the Italian standardization body) and promoted by myself and AISM Associazione Italiana Sviluppo Marketing (the Italian Association for Marketing Development): it is perhaps explicable that, by dint of having focused for more than a year on market orientation, I tend to evangelize on the subject to anyone who comes within my reach and that the topic has become a bit of an obsession for me, especially recently;
  • on the other hand, the program of the course has been progressively modified: whereas in the first edition I participated in, it began with my talk on the importance of the market and the fundamental role of a marketing mindset, this topic has been progressively moved later, and in this edition it is scheduled after those on the so-called pitch (the concise presentation of the business idea to potential funders), human resources, coaching, and business plan.

It is true that the course will always end with the grand finale of the business simulation by which I try to make participants feel the thrill of touching the relationship between competitive decisions and economic and market results, but perhaps it would be helpful if the message about the fundamental importance of the market was hammered into the heads of future startuppers from the very beginning.

To make a long story short and get to the point: guess how many of the twenty who presented their projects on the opening day of the course clearly indicated to whom their products or services are targeted and what benefits or pain relievers those products or services promise to offer.

How many do you think have even hinted at the characteristics of the target audience, the value offered, its components, value/price assumptions, and competitive comparisons?

How about two of them to be optimistic?

90% of the trainees presented their ideas by looking just at themselves and carefully avoiding reference to the problems, needs, and expectations of the market and how well those expectations are currently being met or unmet.

I imagine exactly the same thing happened in the previous editions of the course I was involved in, but this time it particularly struck me, probably because the other times I implicitly assumed that this was a normal thing and that I would soon have the opportunity to try to change the minds of the trainees.

But how could this be a normal thing?

  • how can we not understand that the only real funder of businesses is the market? Even when the startup gets some initial funding thanks to the affabulatory skills of the entrepreneur in the famous pitch, if it doesn’t meet specific market needs and if it doesn’t do it better than at least some direct or indirect competitors, it won’t stand in the long run
  • what effect can a splendid communication campaign have on the medium to long term if the promised benefits are not real and concrete? This is not to say that one cannot make fictitious benefits seem real and concrete, but how much money would it take and how ethical would it be to do so?
  • what is the point of having optimal managers and organizational structures if the offer is not able to produce value for the company through the generation of value for the market, that is, through a value/price ratio that is competitive and profitable at the same time?
  • what is the point of a business plan if it does not explicitly estimate market potentials and credibly explain how and why some of them would be acquired, precisely because of a winning value/price ratio?

I leave the obvious answers to you, and this time, instead of offering a musical treat as a “cotillon”, I suggest you subscribe to Enchanted Classics on YouTube. Aside from the playlists of classical pieces, I find the paintings depicting beautiful and very sweet girls that accompany them really spectacular: can you imagine that they are generated by artificial intelligence?


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