Americans are hungry for innovation. From the light bulb to the iPad, we embrace the technology oriented products that transform our lives in new and unexpected ways. If an entrepreneur can dream something, the culture of innovation in our country will help make it reality.
For entrepreneurs, however, inventing something is easy. Innovation is hard. It is defined as the “act or process of introducing new ideas, devices or methods” to a market. Three quarters of venture-backed startups fail, according to recent Harvard Business School research. Part of the reason is that they haven’t properly harnessed the process of innovation.
By focusing on disrupted industries, understanding the constellation of consumers’ needs within that industry, and then finding a niche to dominate, entrepreneurs can hedge against high odds of failure and live the true 'American Dream'.
Target Specific Consumer Needs
Periodically, a small number of groundbreaking innovations spur entire industries. The steam engine lead to the railroad, the factory and eventually the Industrial Revolution, which fundamentally changed the way that people worked, lived and related. Presently, mobile devices, big data and social media are changing our lives again.
Disrupted industries are fertile ground for innovation. Standards have yet to be established; every new solution seems viable. A disrupted industry is the ideal place for an entrepreneur to jump aboard. It is generally easier to enter a disrupted industry than to plant the innovation that overhauls or creates an entire industry, the way the light bulb or iPhone did. After pinpointing an industry, the next step is to enter with an original product that addresses a specific consumer need.
Understand the Constellation of Consumer Needs
Peoples’ needs don’t exist in isolation. They are interdependent. The need to work remotely, for example, drives the need for a laptop, database software, a VOIP application and a set of headphones. By tracing how which connect to one another, entrepreneurs can pinpoint the niche they want to dominate.
Take my own industry, the fitness industry. A constellation of needs has grown around functional exercise. People today demand the ability to be fit and strong enough to succeed in any activity they pursue. They want the physical aptitude to, say, go kiteboarding one day, lift an infant the next, renovate a kitchen and then hold down a desk job without suffering from back pain.
Crunched for time, people want to achieve this level of fitness in a fast-paced, social setting. Functional fitness fits that need. Instead of separating out cardio and weights, functional fitness uses compound movements to train multiple physical abilities at once. Doing rapid squats on your toes while holding a kettlebell over your head, for example, will train your strength, coordination, balance and power.
An entire constellation of needs has grown up around the idea of functional fitness. The participants of group classes want versatile compound movements, which require a new set of fitness tools. They want variety, which leads to new types of fitness classes.
Own Your Niche
Once entrepreneurs recognized the needs around functional fitness, they found niches to dominate. Boot camps emerged around the need for functional, varied workouts before and after work—often as part of a corporate wellness program. High-intensity interval training programs such as circuit workouts found their way into group fitness classes at gyms. These fast-paced workouts generate similar results to cardio and weights, but in a compressed time frame and with a functional focus. Obstacle course-style races popped up all over the country to address the functional needs of the weekend warrior crowd. Others entrepreneurs introduced and propagated the functional tools that now have homes in most gyms: sandbells, suspension training, balance boards, hydraulic resistance platforms.
Of course, fitness isn’t the only industry ripe for innovation today. The same approach can be applied to mobile technology, health IT, supplements, beer and a variety of other ‘hot’ industries. By recognizing and responding to real needs in their industry, entrepreneurs stand a better chance of owning their niche. Consumers are always hungry for innovation—it’s just a matter of finding a way to reach them.
Which trend will you be harnessing next?
Michael Luther is the CEO of Surge Performance Training, an Austin-based startup that has developed a ground-based functional training platform utilizing unique, patent pending designs to deliver health and fitness results quickly and safely, for all levels and types of users. He previously serves as co-founder of Uplogix, Inc. and Bandspeed. Michael earned his Master of Business Administration from Stanford University. Follow Surge PT on Twitter @SurgePT
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