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Winning Combination = Speed + Design + ???



I was scouring the web looking for some good posts about speed and agility as a startup’s advantage when I stumbled upon this: “Speed and Design: Key Differentiators for a Startup”.  It was written more than two years ago in December 2011 by a tech entrepreneur, but it’s still highly relevant today.  In fact, it’s spot on in what I was looking for.

One of the reasons why I was looking for speed and agility in a startup is the idea that so many great ideas are already out there.  However, the startups that are born and grow and survive are oftentimes the ones that standout especially in design. 

Today’s world has anyone and everyone programming.  There are great resources like Codecademy, One Month Rails, Lynda.com, and they go on and on.  There are utilities that help you build an app without ever touching real code!  Back in the day (early 2000’s and prior), programmers came at a premium.  The real good ones were always in San Francisco.  But now, people have so many tools out there to get programming experience, and launch quickly. 

The keys now to standout are a startup’s speed and design. Though, I will add one more to this list and make it lucky number 3 – service.  Here are some thoughts on why and how speed, design, and service:
  • Build, Launch, Adjust, Repeat.  There are niches and pain-points everywhere.  Applying a model from industry to industry can work, but fine adjustments are needed to really build and cater to a specific market.  The quicker you can implement and adjust (or pivot) the more likely you will win customers and win them fast over competitors.
  • Brains Are Rare Talent.  Those with creative minds have it made.  Creativity is like one of those attributes that many people aren’t born with.  Instead, it takes unique minds to sometimes come up with the most unique solutions.  Creativity is difficult to train.
  • Great Programmers Can Be Your Catalyst.  It’s true that with coding, there are almost infinite ways to implement a solution.  At the end of the day, programmers are builders where architects (the creatives) may provide the final plans.  If you get me to the future state, I don’t need to know what’s behind the curtain so much.  However, great programmers have the know-how and the experience to know how to deploy quickly and may know the reasons why NOT to employ a particular method or code due to some harsh learnt lessons from the past (i.e. polling can be a major server suck).
  • Keep it simple and sweet.  KISS has long been a phrase tossed around about anything and everything.  My dad actually said K.I.S.S. stood for “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”  Whatever works, I suppose.  In the end, today’s culture is NOW NOW NOW.  And because of this, startups need to orient their products and services to help customers get set up quickly.  People aren’t going to make time to understand your product if there’s something out there that is both easier to set up and easier to use.  Set up, training, and transacting take time, and as you all know the other popular phrase… time is money.
  • Bring It All Together with Superior Service.  Tying everything above is service.  Or rather more specifically, customer service.  As a startup, you’re bound to run into problems and issues be they software bugs, product quality control, service issues, etc.  Your ability to provide personal customer service quickly will endear your customers.  If you fail to be upfront and honest and provide assistance timely, you’ll quickly become just another company that your customers feel can be replaced easily.  By being personal and providing timely service, you can reach customers on a more HUMAN level, and thus, play emotional ties.
So Rohit from techCEO provided a good start in calling out speed and design as key differentiators.  However, I feel that adding service is a critical third differentiator.  As a startup, it’s important to maintain healthy and communicative feedback system with customers to know what to fine-tune, what to create, what to remove… Speed to deploy and iterate, design for simplicity and usability, and service to maintain and build relationships are the activities that really set startups apart, and should be parts of a sustainable business model.

What are your thoughts about key differentiators?  What’s another key differentiator that I may have missed?

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