Every day, it seems, there’s an announcement about the launch of a new social tool or app. In some way it reminds me of the “me too” phenomenon of the late 1990’s – remember the dot-com era? Everything imaginable became a company. Did it also become a business?
The crowding space is not the problem. The economy’s invisible hand has a remarkable way of cleansing itself of businesses that lack competitive advantages and sound monetization strategies.
Crowded markets thin out, eventually, when confronted with long-term viability. So there’s no doubt the tide will retreat. My concern, though, is that this flood of feature-driven, me-too tools is eroding the bar of real tech entrepreneurship.
The benefit of launching digital products is speed to market and low barriers. The drawback is that each time one of these concepts is launched, our sense of innovation becomes polluted. This is quickly apparent when you consider the sea of daily deal sites, list creation boards, check-in concepts, photo sharing apps, etc.
This issue is we don’t need more tools that solve simple problems or appeal to basic human interests. This is especially true with me-too strategies (e.g. “it’s like XYZ for the ABC market“ or “it’s like XYZ but has 123”). While me-too strategies make it easier to introduce a concept to customers and investors, these types of concepts lack the substance that produces a material change in people’s lives.
Think about the feelings you have towards your favorite physical (and digital) products. The items at the top most likely impact what you enjoy most in life. These are material products because they connect us to the people and the experiences that mean most to us.
To create new innovation leaps entrepreneurs need to focus on creating products that produce material changes in people lives. This is where the magic happens.
Think about how you felt when you discovered one of your favorite new bands or TV shows… when you tasted your first mind blowing beer or wine… when you watched one of your favorite movies for the first time… or when you ate your first meal at one of your favorite restaurants.
Is it not to the same feeling you had then, when you got your first use of the iPhone/iPod? Or when you used Google for the first time? Isn’t it amazing how these products are so memorable and how you still enjoy them to this day? More importantly, isn’t it amazing how motivated you have been to share them and enjoy the experience with the people you care about?
Material products are not simply shiny objects. They are what have made this country a leader in innovation. As entrepreneurs, we need to dig deeper and create products that produce a material change in people’s lives.
As consumers, we should demand more of those.