There’s a common narrative that repeats itself in the tech industry. A burgeoning startup emerges with a groundbreaking concept, successfully attracts incredible VC funding, and skyrockets to unicorn status. The company then fails to deliver sustainable profit and falls from glory in a few short years (or even months, in some cases). Despite the relative slowdown in VC activity, that story has still played out over the last year and usually comes to the same ending: 90% of startups fail, 10% of which succumb within the first year.
While the numbers paint a grim picture, one thing we recognize as innovators is that every challenge harbors a unique solution. In many cases, it isn’t the funding that holds entrepreneurs back but rather a hyper-fixation of rapid growth and flashy technology. This leads to a disregard for solving core business challenges, ultimately resulting in a lack of stability and long-term profitability. It’s critical to shift this approach and prioritize providing replicable solutions to relevant issues before investing in alluring technology products.
Suppose the objective is to introduce an innovative solution to new, niche problems in a manner previously unseen in the market. In that case, you don’t need to be bold — you need to be daring enough to believe in your company’s clairvoyance and knowledgeable enough about the space you’re in to hold firm to that level of self-confidence, even in the face of intense headwinds.
Here’s how to start your own category to solve niche problems
Identify your unique value proposition
When faced with seemingly insurmountable odds or a potential windfall investment, what is most important is that you stay true to your company’s mission.
The most beloved and valued companies built categories where none existed to offer solutions that others couldn’t even imagine. There’s a reason why Apple has maintained its presence as the most valuable company on Earth: The emergence of the iPhone came at a time when users needed to carry their iPods, cell phones, laptops, and planners individually. For the first time, there was a single device that could be all of these items.
Contrast that to a product like Threads, which offers a simple alteration of an existing product and has failed to maintain users. The sales pitch of “We offer the same product as what’s already in the market, just a little bit different” is far weaker than “Here’s a solution that didn’t exist before.” In my career helping brands connect with their communities on their platforms, I have witnessed how this strategy reaps greater rewards than copying existing solutions.
In 2018–2019, I started a journey to take on traditional social giants and provide an alternative way for brands to develop online brand-centric communities. At the time, Facebook had several infamous scandals around misuse of personal data, so Amity set out on a mission to improve and democratize social networks, hoping to build them in a better form that fosters positive user interaction while respecting user data privacy.