Startups and movies have quite a bit in common.
Los Angeles, the Entertainment capital of the world.
San Francisco Bay Area, the Startup capital of the world.
We know that to some extent but somehow it does not truly hit home.
If you produce an English movie in Singapore looking for worldwide adoration and box office revenues, it usually ends up with limited distribution (classified a foreign language film) and screened in film festivals with limited distribution outcomes.
How do you choose the right beach head market for your startup that you can readily dominate that makes sense from where you are and move on from there?
If there are essentially 3 types of major major markets, categorized as:
- English speaking - SF Bay Area as the hub
- Chinese speaking - Beijing, China as the hub (because China is indeed special)
- a) Rest of World (Developed) b) Rest of World (Developing)
Then, starting out from Singapore with limited resources, capital, talent and rising cost is pretty challenging from the on set. Where is then your beach head market? What is your move, chief?
It goes back to the founding team especially the CEO and what his or her personal situations, ambitions, knowledge, connections lies. Some founders put the company ahead of themselves and consider what market is best for the company and go to where it brings the largest impact. Some founders go with what they are comfortable with and capitalize on the opportunity that they know they can achieve. There is no right or wrong answer here, that is why the startup game is incredibly hard.
If you have something game changing, or you are 1 of 3 companies in the world that do what you do, and/or you can demonstrate a 10x differentiation to your closest competitor or simply, you know something that no one else in the world knows, chances are there are only a small number of places that will understand you, appreciate your venture's risk reward profile and have the ready ecosystem that will surround you to make things happen. Go to where they are.
If your beach head market is not ready, changing customer behavior where early adopters are not abundant makes achieving escape velocity a lot harder. It usually takes more time than you think. If investors in that region do not have the time to wait for escape velocity to arrive, you will likely throttle down your ambition and iterate to fit a market that understands, engages and pays for what you have.
Therein lies the rise of clones and me too companies.
Trust me, they are equally as hard to start and run compared to companies with breakthrough ideas. However, if you have ambitions to solve local or regional problems using or applying solutions or products that people resonate with, where a lot of guess work has been taken out then interestingly timed products that will achieve traction will surface. However, these founders have to realize that because they have chosen this path, their markets maybe limited, with intense competition close by. They have to execute even faster.
Achieving a break through idea is hard. Everyone is trying to do that on a daily basis everywhere in the world. Courage and genius are still needed to pull it off.
Nobody says startups are easy. Choose your beach head market wisely.
So what is the purpose or role of Singapore then?
Personally, I think for now, Singapore is a special enough place that helps stitch Southeast Asia closer together and makes it easier for entrepreneurs to do business in the region (i.e. Rest of the World - Southeast Asia).
p.s. More on startup ecosystems coming up soon especially ours (Singapore).
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