Business Models for Start-Ups Should be Grounded in Some Old School Principles

I read an interesting article the other day, about business models for start-ups.  While start-ups are not my typical client, I saw some ideas that I think could use a bit more fleshing out.  For instance, the article reads:

“The central area is the Value Proposition. In this section you must enter a value that you are determined to create and spread in the market, as well as the value you want to generate for your audience…”

I agree that the center of any new business model is a value proposition – but the reality is that there is a very mixed understanding of what that truly is.

valueIn particular, I’d like to suggest that figuring out what value you want to create FIRST, without identifying in advance the value needed/demanded from your audience is putting the cart before the horse.  Many a technology start-up has burned through their cash and shut their doors because they had a value proposition that spoke to the offer they wanted to sell, and not to what the buyer needed and was willing to buy. It’s the old “build it and they will come” theory which simply doesn’t work.

The value that the audience needs and desires comes before anything else in crafting a value proposition.  Then it should be translated into a modular platform that defines the value the audience is looking for, the specific offer(s) your organization delivers on the desired value, and finally, you need to define 1 or 2 rock solid differentiators that are quantifiable (with proof).   Smart start-ups will verticalize the value proposition into their different market segments as soon as possible so that it speaks in industry buyer language to specific industry issues, objectives, challenges.

So I agree that  business model  central area is the Value Proposition.  But it actually hinges on  a clear, well-articulated, customer-focused value proposition that is tailored by market and by audience.  Without it, the rest of the your business model canvas ends up being just busy work.

My best start-up advice is this:  start with customer, start with the customer, start with the customer.  Haven’t got a customer yet?  Vision who they should be – and work to define the value proposition they care enough to spend money on – then define/refine the offering.  Don’t waste your time and theirs on a cool idea that chases customers, rather than engages them up front.

So, what do you think is the rock that start-ups should be built upon?

— Lisa Dennis

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