A startup debate that has been weighing on me recently is building a solution for today vs. an idea for tomorrow. David Cummings recently wrote a post touching on this – “Funding Today’s Business or Tomorrow’s Idea”. We could be talking evolutionary vs. revolutionary. This could involve a high-degree of market education and long sales cycles.
I remember early on with Body Boss this very issue. My co-founder Darren Pottinger really started the company off an idea to bring heuristics and predictive modeling to exercise. The idea employed regression forecasting to recommend the weight an exerciser should do next.
Body Boss was originally intended for the Consumer market. However, we pivoted towards the B2B crowd of professional strength coaches – institutional teams and training programs. Where coaches thought the algorithms and forecasting were interesting, they wanted full control of what athletes should be doing. For example, they wanted the ability to prescribe the percentage of an athlete’s one-repetition maximum weight. Body Boss would just calculate the weight to be done from the percentage and the one-rep max via a “test assessment”.
As a startup with no real expertise in professional strength and conditioning or other exercise research, we did not have the credibility to recommend our algorithm vs. the coaches’ traditional methods. Though there was real potential in our algorithm – the Idea of Tomorrow – coaches wouldn’t buy Body Boss without the ability to build percentage-based workouts – the Business of Today. The opportunity of Body Boss, then, was the ability to collect and organize workouts and their results.
We saw prospects who were hesitant to buy early on convert to paid-customers once we implemented the percentage schemes.
Entrepreneurs will likely have their visions of grandeur for tomorrow. However, tomorrow may never come. Instead, build a base off of today’s business. Then, run research behind the scenes to validate the ideas of tomorrow. This isn’t much different from traditional research and development teams in large corporations today. But they all start from a position of a stable base.
Build the bridge to tomorrow on today. When you have the credibility and resources, you can influence tomorrow.