You have a great idea and have developed a product. Now you want to protect it. When I ask entrepreneurs how they will do this, they usually talk about patents and continually improving their technology. They're focusing on the wrong thing - the tip of the iceberg only.
Beneath the tip (the technology) there is potentially a whole world of competitive advantage. Let's explore three such icebergs:
The Suppliers/Supply Relationships Iceberg. The success of many products rests on an intricate, complex web of commercial relationships.
When Hannes and I cofounded Fundamo, a mobile payments company, he immediately began building our web of relationships with banks, mobile operators, systems integrators, regulators and others. Without this our technology would never have succeeded.
The Systems Iceberg. Your core product needs to be complemented by a wide range of other services and systems - training, pre and post-sales support, systems integrators, user communities, etc. I call these the "petals" of the "flower" - more about this strategy here.
The Brand Iceberg. Does your company stand for more than its products? Do you have an ethos, a passion, a purpose, a vision that draws people to your brand?
Apple had no new innovative products throughout the early 2000's, yet people continued to enthusiastically buy their products - because they were passionate about the Apple brand.
Embrace the Iceberg
Many of the entrepreneurs I work with are fixated only on their technology - and do not realise that the value of most companies lies in the rest of the iceberg.
Neil Hinrichsen is the founder of Koi. An entrepreneur all his life, Neil has cofounded two startups both of which were acquired, and is now working to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs in SA through his Koi platform, comprising a methodology for startups, classes, coffee sessions, mentoring, the KoiTips newsletters and a thriving online group. He loves working with young entrepreneurs who want to change the world. Neil also helps Microsoft with their BizSpark programme for top startups, provides mentoring at the Innovation Hub and other incubators, consults with corporates, advises the CSIR in South Africa on commercialising research, is an accredited specialist with the University of Pretoria and serves on the advisory board for Stellenbosch University's LaunchLab incubator. On the personal side he's involved in youth ministry and mentoring township teenagers. Learn more about Koi: KOI GUIDE | EMAIL email@example.com
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