Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Start Up Strategy

During the past year I have been working on a start up with a fellow Global MISM student from the Heinz College. Our business focuses on developing visual processing software for Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAVs) used by asset management firms, but that’s not what the idea was when we first started.

Since our start last year in October, we have had to pivot our primary focus more than once to stay afloat in the ever shifting tech industry. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, when we started we were using a very adaptive strategy. As we kept developing our original product and learning more and more about the industry we were targeting, we realized that our solution wouldn’t be ideal and wouldn’t attract enough customers due to the lack of maturity in the market or the legal restrictions. Rather than scrap the start up venture, we decided to shift our focus and mold the product to the ever changing market.

After a few months (and various pivots) we realized that we were allowing the current state of the market and the lack of maturity in the UAV software industry have too large an influence on our product. Without realizing it at the time, we decided to shift from an adaptive strategy to a shaping strategy. Rather than keep changing the product due to lack of software to accommodate our requirements, we would shift our focus onto developing the software that was missing. We came to the conclusion that what we were originally trying to do (use UAVs for asset management) would happen sooner later. We also realized that it would require certain kinds of software to make using UAVs a feasible alternative to the current asset management solutions, and we wanted to develop that software.

Having now read the Your Strategy Needs A Strategy article I realize how important proper fit between strategic style, industry, and life cycle are, especially in a start up environment. Had we not been adaptable when we first came up with our idea we would have surely called it quits. Moreover, had we not shifter from an adaptive to a shaping strategy we would still be running around in circles trying to design a service that depends on software that doesn’t exist yet. Understanding the distinction between the different strategies and when and how they should be applied has allowed us to shift the focus of our business venture to a feasible and lucrative angle. Now that I understand the distinction between the different strategy styles I realize how much of an advantage we have using a shaping strategy in a new and growing tech space. If we manage to develop our software soon enough and test it in the field before UAVs become more popular in the asset management industry, and before the UAV governance laws in the US are put in place, we have the opportunity of becoming leaders in the field of UAV asset management software.

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