The single ‘yes’ startup


I was just talking to a startup about their project. They wanted to supply cafes with a new high tech food service. The idea was good and interesting and they we’re thinking big – too big. In their mind the path to success was cutting a deal with a large chain who could roll out their innovation at scale. Big ambitions are great, but the problem with leveraging the scale of another organisation is this:

We need too many people to say ‘yes’ before we can make progress.

Here’s a better idea, find a way to get to market where you need a maximum of 1 person to say yes. If we do this, we can get out of fantasy land and prove a real market proposition.

I then suggested they find 1 cafe, with 1 owner, who can give them an answer to test the concept. If they say no, at least you can ask why and learn something. When dealing with  big companies we also need to remember the people often say ‘Yes’, to get us off their plate. To revert us to someone else who can say ‘No’. And you guessed it, this process can drag on for months and meetings until you get to the final and real ‘No’. All the while you’re believing you’re making progress, but it’s down a long lead dead end.

The probability of any startup succeeding can be divided by the number of people we need to say ‘yes’ to what we want to do. 

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