The new critical success factors: Creativity and Innovation


The world of entrepreneurship today is very different than it was in 1999.  The cost and time related to developing web applications are both much lower today than they were years ago.  That’s not to mention that entrepreneurship has grown considerably in popularity.  Starting a company now is a lot cooler than it used to be.  And people are getting involved at much younger ages.

The net effect of all this is that the world of entrepreneurship is much more competitive than it used to be.  So the natural question is: how can you be successful in such a tough competitive environment?  Let’s examine some of the differences between critical success factors ten years ago and today.

Ten years ago, succeeding in entrepreneurship was about:
  • Executing on the business plan you laid out.
  • Getting to a product before you ran out of money. (This sounds funny, but it really is true.  The amount of time and money it took to get to a 1.0 ten years ago was non-trivial.  A lot of companies never made it out of product development.)
  • Getting on the radar of an interesting acquirer (before or after you have earned revenue/profit)
Today, success is about:
  • Solving a problem that people actually care about.
  • Winning the war of adoption (which in strong part is driven by usability).
  • Adopting a business model that makes sense.  (Acquirers care about the fundamentals of businesses more today than in the past.)

Of course, the above is an over-simplification.  But the core observations still make intuitive sense.  Getting a 1.0 product out the door is not the differentiator anymore.  There is a lot of competition on the internet today.  Getting a product out the door without a business or distribution model is about as good as not having built one in the first place.

So the more experience I have in building a company in today’s world, the more firmly I believe that creativity and innovation are really the core competencies required to build a successful business.  It’s about building something novel and valuable.  And doing so in a way that is delightful and easy to use.  There are choices for nearly every kind of web application today.  Being the easiest to use and to share with other users is critical to success.

But I don’t feel like most companies take this as seriously as they need to.  More to come on this soon…

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