Amazon is frequently cited as one of the most successful companies able to innovate at scale. And rightly so, having shipped over a billion packages this holiday season, introduced the Echo, created the super profitable Amazon Web Services and now perhaps directly entering the global logistics market with new software, vehicles and partnerships.
Innovating at scale is also a trait that startups need to master. Many companies fail to capitalize on early successes by thinking that innovation is a 'one-trick pony' that will carry them to market dominance and riches. Not so.
Here are a few thoughts on how startups can nurture 'multi-trick pony' strategies like Amazon does:
- Make innovation a core strategy--Often, startups are more interested in extensions of existing products and services, not creating new ones. Lack of capital is often cited as the reason, even if they are well funded. Sometimes, VC's discourage portfolio companies from extending their reach. Ignore all this and be sure that your strategy includes innovations. If not, your competitors will find those weak spots and exploit them.
- Build on successes--what's the new, new thing that your customers are looking for? Do you even know? Are they too conservative in thinking so that their suggestions are mostly application extensions? You need to look beyond current customers and wonder why others are not buying your offerings. And you need to introduce new offering that customers, existing or new, never thought they needed.
- Extend your supply lines--Amazon lets merchants sell in competition with them, and makes money keeping their products in their warehouses and shipping them to customers. Amazon is also going down channel into the logistics world. Where are those opportunities in your world? Going into corollary spaces where existing expertise can be used to enter new markets is a straightforward way to create new products and services, avoiding trying to enter markets without needed capabilities.
So, what's your New Year's resolution, founders? I hope it is figuring out how to innovate at scale in 2017...