:::By DAVID ADAMS
Being on the frontier of a new industry can be both thrilling and terrifying, especially with a product or service that you think can change the world. But is the world ready to hop on board?
As CEO of a company offering temporary furnished housing — a new frontier in its own right — I’ve seen both the benefits and the potential pitfalls of carving out a new arena in the on-demand economy. Above all else, it’s a matter of improving upon what came before — even the newest innovations are built upon the advancements of the past.
Instacart is a prime example of a startup building its own business frontier. Grocery shopping used to be a huge drain on time. Instacart saw an opportunity for disruption, and after two rounds of funding, the company grew to serve 15 cities. But expansion is just one side of the story. Instacart also looked to improve on its service.
The company learned that customers didn’t like its price markup, while grocery stores hated losing price control. Instacart listened and restructured its business, taking a percentage of each order instead of marking up prices. Customers saved money, and grocery stores regained some control.
Aspiring entrepreneurs should follow Instacart’s strategy when blazing their own trails. Here are four tips to get started:
1. Explore multiple markets.
People gravitate toward brands they recognize, so catching them early is the best way to build loyalty. More foreigners use Uber than Lyft when visiting the U.S. because Uber has expanded overseas. Visitors from Europe or China know what they want and trust Uber to provide it.
People don’t stay in one place anymore. My company, HomeSuite, originated in the San Francisco Bay area. But by expanding into Los Angeles and New York City (with more cities on the way), we’ve built traction both in our new markets and back home as well.
2. Listen to customers.
Your business exists to solve someone’s problem, and every time a client says, “I wish you did this,” you get an indicator of how to take your product to the next level. Look at Instacart for a model of success, but also put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
At HomeSuite, we asked ourselves what our clients would want if they were new to San Francisco. In response to their feedback, we now send out welcome packs and offer a city-specificNeighborhood Power Rankings to help get them started in a new area.
3. Promote efficiency.
Efficiency is a primary theme for us. Our time and resources are precious, and the time we save with each new innovation is used to find more ways to improve our services even more. New technologies can make all the difference when it comes to generating efficiency.
Why waste your time doing something if there’s a method out there that can do it better, faster and cheaper? If TurboTax can take care of your tax needs and is cheaper than hiring an accountant, doesn’t it make sense to use the software? With greater efficiency, you can spend more time and money making your product better.
4. Be the best, not the first.
If you think you have a solution to an unaddressed problem, chances are high that you’re not alone. Technology is evolving all the time, and startup founders have to move quickly to position themselves as industry leaders.
But speed shouldn’t come at the expense of quality. Sometimes, it’sbetter to be second. As the second to enter the field, you can analyze and learn from the first company’s mistakes, incorporating the new market’s lessons into your own strategy. Google was certainly not the first search engine around, but it’s the one we all turn to. Every business, no matter how fresh it seems, is built on old foundations.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and launching a revolutionary business takes time. If you believe in the value of your product and adopt the right strategies, it’s only a matter of time before the world gets on board.