A business model for every startup

Flying Dog

Here’s a simple business model which should be built into every startup.

Ways to make money using technology which is not available today.

The possibilities of connection are changing so rapidly these days it is quite possible that the way we make money in a few years, is not even technically possible today. The startup may invent the technical possibility, or leverage an emerging possibility for the community they are building. Either way, the path is simple – startups need to ensure that their future revenue streams consider a future possibility, not just the reality of today.

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What business are we really in?

Old music tape

The business we are in is the problems we solve, not the product we sell. During times of great technological upheaval, problems get solved in new and unexpected ways.  This is how companies get disrupted. The single way to ensure any business remains valid is this:

We must always love our customer more than we love our infrastructure. 

If we truly do this, then we’ll be able to endure the pain required during the inevitable transition.

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The type of thinking needed in exponential times

Busy road with fumes

If you could choose a house on a busy road, or a quiet road in the same suburb, and price was not an issue, the choice is simple – the quiet road wins every time. And we all know why – less pollution, less noise, less danger. Oh, and quieter streets are usually nicer to look at. The prices of real estate reflect this. A house of similar quality on a busier road can be as much as 50% cheaper.

So here’s a question worth thinking about: What happens to those property prices when all cars have electric engines, and they don’t have tail pipes? You guessed it – there is almost no noise and no localised pollution. Surely then, the prices of houses in busy streets will go up and bridge the existing pricing gap somewhat. In the next 10 years significant amounts of money will be made in property by arbitraging the positive impact of electric cars.

It’s economic plays like this that are easy to see once we start thinking about the impact of the technology, and not the technology itself.

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Software is eating the world – and surfing

The picture below is of surfboard fins. These days they are not permanently attached to the surfboard, but screw in. This allows surfers to change fin sizes and shape for different surf, it also allows you to travel with out busting them.

3D Printed Surfboard fins

The fins on the left come from a company called FCS and they retail for $140. The fins on the right came off a 3D printer and cost exactly zero dollars, well maybe $3 in raw in materials. In general fins sell for between $100 and $200.

Sure the FCS fins on the left look fancy and are made from carbon fibre, the 3D printed versions above are various plastics, but in many ways they are better. I can print fins quickly and cheaply with varying degrees of flex. I can print fins with more flex at the top and less at the bottom, I can even add other technology to the fins like a GPS, to track my surfing without wearing a bulky watch. I can customise my design on my fins, the colour, create personal branding anything, sell my designs to other surfers….the options are endless, and the cost is negligible. That said, I can print fins in carbon fibres, light metals and pretty much any material I want.

It won’t be long before the days of buying expensive fins are over. 

These fin companies are less than 20 years old, and unless they facilitate 3D printing of their product, they’ll be disrupted – maybe me and my new surfing company Sneaky Surf. Mind you this company (FCS) was recently bought by Surf Stitch for $23.7 million. I hope they get their money back quick or it will be a classic diworsification. If they paid a 10 times price earning ratio, they’ll never get their money back. I reckon within 3 years no one will buy fins again.

If you make any widget like the example above, or buy them, then the time is now to move to 3D printed versions. You don’t even need to own a printer – there are plenty of startups on line who can print your designs for you and ship them to you customers. GO – this opportunity to dematerialise a category (like music was dematerialised) is big. We all know that software is eating the world – Make it happen in your industry.

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A world before the World Wide Web?

Here’s a documentary I want to see. Two families living life as it was were before the world wide web arrived. For most homes that was some time during the 1990’s. I imagine life is very different for teenagers, toddlers and parents today compared to say in 1985. We’ve all seen the documentaries comparing life in the distant past – this farming one living like it’s 1885 comes to mind. But how would today compare to just 30 years ago – 1986 to 2016?

I think we’d find it is more different than we remember or younger people expect. I’d love to see a house, school, shopping, media, politics, transport systems all set up to run the experiment with a family or two. Document it – compare it to our modern economy and boom – compelling viewing

Someone go make it – it’s a cool idea for free. I’m sure a production company or TV station would love it.

You can thank me at the award ceremony.

Love, Stevie.


Low tech jobs in a high tech world

look alike robot

The robots are taking over. Seriously, they are. They are taking a lot of the crappy and dangerous jobs we’ve done in the past. They’re taking a few of the good ones too. So here’s a thought, why not try and own some robots? Maybe save some money with your robot – oh, like your phone which saves you buying music…

Here’s another thought experiment: If a person has $100 in their wallet, and instead of spending 30 of those dollars on a CD, where does the money go? Does it just evaporate? Of course not. Money doesn’t evaporate, it just changes places. It is relatively easy to see where it will dry up and where it will get invested instead. The transition is obvious to people who pay attention to the world they live in. Good news, that new place where old new money gets spent also has new new jobs associated with it – most will be low tech. They always are.

Here’s another little known fact – the worlds most profile tech company ‘Google’ is not the nerd nest of techies you think it is. More than half of its global workforce are sales people. Yep, that same person who would normally have sold TV ads, cars, vacuums, real estate and health insurance is now a sales person at Google.

Humans invent jobs as new industries and technologies emerge. We surround the new thing with people – it’s like a force of gravity. People aggregate around money and commerce. And yes, some good paying jobs do disappear, but some other high paying ones arrive too.

If you want to be on the high paying end of things, here’s what to do, go out and learn some new skills few people have, there are enormous skill gaps in the market today. And these skills are free to learn on line. Here’s a website I love called the ‘No Excuses List’ – which is full of things you can learn for free. Skills companies and people need today!  If you make the effort to reinvent yourself in times of great change, the prize is big, I know I’ve done it myself.

But of course there’s a catch, I can’t do your push ups for you.

Questions established companies must ask themselves


“How could our customers do this thing without us?”

“What can be removed from the process and still solve this problem?”

“How could this problem be solved without using a physical product?”

“What technology is likely to be introduced into our things?

“What will happen to prices of the thing we sell when more technology is introduced.?”

“What would a new entrant into this market likely do to meet customers needs?”

Once these questions are answered sufficiently and honestly, they ought go ahead and do these things. They are going to happen anyway aren’t they?

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