When it comes to start-ups, over-complicated concepts just won't cut it
Guest piece by Jacob Wedderburn-Day, CEO of Stasher.
When it comes to start-ups, innovation and disruption seem to be the raison d’etre. But if there’s one thing we’ve learnt since launching our business in 2016, it’s that the simplest ideas often prove the most effective. Rather than trying to fix something that isn’t broken, plucking a wild concept out of thin air and building a complex and expensive prototype, or steamrolling flourishing industries, our experience suggests that a logical solution to an acknowledged problem is the best way to start when it comes to a start-up.
It seems like common sense to suggest that your business idea must fill a gap in the market, or at the very least refresh an old concept with something better; but all too many entrepreneurs seem to fall short at this first hurdle by attempting to reinvent the wheel, or replace it with something square shaped. It’s tempting to get super creative and take a punt on a big idea – but it’s also important to be realistic about what the market needs, and be honest with yourself about whether your offering fulfils it.
Take Uber for example – taxis whenever you want them, wherever you want them. It’s exceedingly simple yet solves a common dilemma. How many times have you waited ages for a taxi because the local rank was busy on a Friday night, or have asked around to find a number for a reliable service nearby? That problem is a distant memory; and that’s all thanks to Uber.
‘A simple answer to a common dilemma’ is really the key thing for any start-up; because if the concept is good and the service is needed, it will inevitably get take up. You want your users or customers to find you genuinely useful and eventually indispensable – so if you’re having a hard time convincing people why they need you, and can’t explain your business in a 60 second elevator pitch, it might be time to simplify it.
It’s not about squashing your creativity entirely; in fact, solving problems efficiently and effectively and presenting them in a user-friendly and marketable way can take enormous amounts of lateral thinking. It may also be the case that a stripped back iteration of your big business idea may be a more appropriate place to start, giving you space to grow as you secure investment and gain a reputation. Starting simple not only carries less risk, it also means you can test your concept, build a reliable brand and garner customer loyalty before testing the waters with an additional, perhaps more complex service.
At Stasher for example, we started out with a basic website, storing people’s luggage in a few small businesses around London. Once we knew the concept worked and that people wanted to use us, we started to grow into new cities across the UK and Europe, we re-designed our site, started working on an app and began brainstorming our next move, which is a bag delivery service. All this additional growth came well after we started out, off the back of a simple idea and a simple website.
Innovation and disruption are immensely valuable, but only when backed up by a (profitable) business idea that is an irrefutable improvement on something already existing; or is filling a gap in the market. The smallest inconveniences can give birth to the biggest ideas – so keep your mind open and don’t overthink a straightforward solution to an oft-encountered issue. It could be exactly what the world needs.