Plan B: Why ‘What Got Us Here, Can’t Take Us There.’

Earlier in the week we posted about Marshall Goldmsith’s so-called Success Delusion. Today we read a interesting post by one of Inc. magazine’s bloggers named Greg Wittstock, founder and CEO of Aquascape.Greg, who has been writing for Inc. under the blog Pondemonium since November, explains in his most recent post how and why he determined the time had come to abandon the original business strategy for Aquascape in favor of a Plan B, even though Plan A had been successful — very successful. Founded in 1991, the company, a vendor of fine aquatic gardening equipment (that’s backyard fish ponds, waterfalls, and water lily type stuff,” writes Greg) has grown into a $60 million business (annual revenues) with 190 employees and in the U.S. and Canada.Yet, Greg writes about how he’s now set to change course.

For four years running, from 1999 through 2002, Aquascape landed on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing privately held companies in America. Yet on December 31, the core business that achieved that feat with will be dead. Why would we kill what was a successful and prosperous business in favor of another model that is completely untested, you ask? Simple. We decided to stop trying to be all things to all people and figure out for the first time what we truly want to be when we grow up.

Greg’s rationale borrows from another Goldsmith maxim, articulated in his book:“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” Read More about Plan B: Why ‘What Got Us Here, Can’t Take Us There.’

‘Will It Fly?’ – Ev Williams, on Idea Evaluation

Repeat founder Ev Williams (Twitter, Blogger), and one of Found|READ’s inaugural contributors (Do as I say, not as I did), published a great post on his personal blog yesterday about the tricky notion of how to determine when you have an idea with success potential, Will it Fly?: How to evaluate a new product idea.

Ev has developed a way of analyzing his ideas, based on seven criteria/questions:

  1. Tractability: How difficult will it be to launch a worthwhile version 1.0?
  2. Obviousness: Is it clear why people should use it?
  3. Deepness: How much value can you ultimately deliver?
  4. Wideness: How many people may ultimately use it?
  5. Discoverability: How will people learn about your product?
  6. Monetizability: How hard will it be to extract the money?
  7. Personally Compelling: Do you really want it to exist in the world?

Ev discusses each of his criteria at some length, and offers examples of how these criteria applied to several highly sucessful products, including his own. Read his full post.

Microblogging: A Case Study in Market Verticalization

In a recent interview with Found|READ, VC Ray Rothrock of Venrock made a startling admission:

“Venture Capital is really all about pattern recognition. We look for patterns it the market, patterns in entrepreneurs, cultural patterns at the startups pitching us.”

Pattern recognition is important for founders, too, especially when it comes to identifying the patterns that suggest a market is evolving and expanding = new business opportunities.

We found a nice mini-case study of this phenomenon in a recent post on Read/WriteWeb about the evolution of personal publishing. It is based on a new essay by the very thoughtful VC, Fred Wilson, on why and how the latest iterations of personal publishing, Twitter and Tumblr, evolved out of the earliest forms, such as Movable Type and WordPress. It’s no accident, he says, it’s verticalization. (Read Wilson’s original post here.)

We think Wilson’s analysis of the personal publishing space is useful not just for what it says about the evolution of that particular market, but also as an exercise in recognizing the pattern(s) of any market in evolution. Read More about Microblogging: A Case Study in Market Verticalization

Tip from Google: Don’t Bet on One ‘Big Bang.’

This morning I ran across a nice interview in Inc. magazine with Google’s Matthew Glotzbach, who runs Google Enterprise, the search giant’s small business solutions unit. Matthew told Inc.’s Jason Del Rey that he believes small companies “have not only the imperative, but also the advantage … to drive innovation.”

Matthew also shared some great tips for how startups can leverage this responsibility into their own rapid growth. I’ve highlighted two of them for you:

Don’t Bet on One Big Bang:

“The trick for a small business is not to take the big-bang approach. Read More about Tip from Google: Don’t Bet on One ‘Big Bang.’

15 Min. 5 Big Minds. Your New ‘Road Ahead.’

I had a great talk with Greg Papadopoulous, the CTO of Sun Microsystems earlier this week. Greg is deep thinker, often using phenomena in astronomy to explain complex problems in networking. It’s inspiring. So I went to his blog. What I want to share first is this video of a panel Papadopoulous moderated this summer at the Paley Center for Media.
These are Five (very) Big Minds, talking very philosophically about the state of networking, and what it means for the business landscape — the New Road Ahead.
Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google; Dan Scheinman, head of Cisco’s Media Solutions Group; Ginsu Yoon, Vice President of Business Affairs at Linden Labs (creators of Second Life); and Bradley Horowitz, Vice President of Product Strategy for Yahoo!. And of course, Papadopoulous.
A teaser… Read More about 15 Min. 5 Big Minds. Your New ‘Road Ahead.’