Eyetease: Key learnings

Eyetease: key learnings
Eyetease: key learnings

It is possible to create a successful business without raising money. Get the product right day one – How? By applying the right structure to (1) “Opportunity Identification” and (2) Adhering to the “4 key business principles” from the beginning and finally about understanding your (3) “Capability Set”:

  1. When you’re starting, ‘Opportunity Identification’ is a key first step – a skill I learnt as a consultant but something that can be easily learnt
    1. Evaluate your chosen market thoroughly
    2. Identify growth areas and ‘The Problem’ that needs solving
    3. Brainstorm conceptually the potential solutions to The Problem
    4. Then try to ‘Productize’ these conceptual solutions
    5. Finally work out a plan to ‘Commercialise’ the product
  2. How do you Commercialise the product? Well, it helps to stay focused on four basic business principles:
    1. (1) What is your product (2) What’s the material benefit of your product to your customer (3) Who is your target customer and (4) How do you make money?
      1. If you cannot describe your product in one sentence, try again!
      2. If you cannot describe some compelling customer benefits of your product, try again!
      3. If you cannot easily identify your target customer, try again!
      4. If you cannot clearly define HOW you make money, try again!
    2. Far too many entrepreneurs are focused on the wrong area
      1. Trying to shoe horn technology to fit a need that doesn’t exist or doesn’t add any material value
      2. Under estimating the difficulty with launching a consumer product with limited marketing capability.
      3. Clouded by the successes of companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc… and forgetting about basic business principles
    3. CAPABILITY SET - The third area which has helped me grow Eyetease as around understanding my own personal “Capability Set”. To run a business you need a complete capability set covering all aspects of the business. It is unlikely you can do all of it and its about know your limits day one, identifying what you can do and focusing on filling in the gaps in your capability set. This can be acheieved through recruiting co-founders, full time employees, interns, all the way to outsourcing specific functions/roles. Your budget will guide your decisions here. Whatever you do, be sure to own the elements of the capability set which hold the most value to you and your business. For example, for Eyetease to be successful, we must have cutting edge production facilities and engineers. This is expensive. So we outsourced development whilst ensuring our contracts specify all IP is owned by Eyetease. Now we can manufacture in any facility we see fit, thus benefiting from manufacturing support whilst not having to pay the fixed costs and overheads associated with manufacturing.
  3. After you’ve successfully executed the above THREE areas - Think strategically and create (what I like to call) the “Stepping stones of startup growth” – How? Challenge your business model and break the business’s growth into stepping stones – each one an obtainable objective that unlocks the next level of growth. It took over 4 years to gain approvals for iTaxitop in London (which yielded a multi million pound contract). In order to get their we launched a simpler product “cabwifi” which was easier to make and approve, which yielded £150k in sales allowing us to survive as a business to a point where we could sell the iTaxitop.
  4. Now you’ve got a kick ass road map and plan – its Implementation time:
    1. Utilise your network – friends, family and fools should be your first port of call
    2. Drop your burn rate and Stay Lean – work from home, work in shared office space, use interns, outsource wherever possible. Cashflow and an eye on where you make the money is the most important part of the business (After getting the product right)
    3. Focus on the value add and outsource the rest.
    4. Be different and think creatively with a business mindset- in the midst of a growing pace of innovation in the UK, how will you set yourself apart from the crowd?
    5. Sustainable growth – the easier it is to do what you do, the easier it is to lose. Think about building barriers to entry. This is not just about getting IP protection but is also about locking down the biggest buyers. Eyetease has both patents, design rights and trademarks – however the most important barrier to entry that we have is exclusive contracts with the world’s biggest buyers. Think about how YOU in your industry can start to build barriers and promote sustainable growth for your business.
  5. Two final take away points.
    1. If you’re starting out - challenge your assumptions, your choice of industry, client focus and product – in a noisy and competitive consumer market with big players spending millions to attract new customers, how will you make an impact? Eyetease focused on developing a disruptive new market for a niche application, created barriers to entry and identified a major client which could be approached on equal terms – a face to face meeting with the key decision maker. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are in this scenario – you can control a meeting with a CEO and speak on his level to unlock a multi million pound contract – much easier than trying to get the same out of thousands of consumers. [This allowed us to stay small, keep our burn rate low, removed the need for external funding – whilst operating at a professional level – until we were able to generate significant revenue to reinvest in the business.]
    2. FINALLY, business isn’t rocket science. With a little strategic thinking and a sprinkling of passion in what you do, perseverance and attention to detail – you can make it!