So now that you’ve established that you do have a vision for your startup, the next step is to answer the question “how do you intend to bring your vision to life”? How do you as a visionary articulate the entrepreneurial journey to commercial success?
The answer is to write a POEM for your vision based on the results of the thinking and research (desk & field) you have done and discussions you should have had about your startup and the industry or industry segment(s) it will be actualising your vision in. POEM is an acronym that comprehensively describes your business vision and can be used to do so throughout the startup’s life cycle from ideation to institutional investment. It derives from Proposition, Organisation, Economics and Milestones, each of which adds a piece to the story of your startup and together totally describe it.
Let’s start with the P, which is for the Proposition your startup is making to the world it will operate in. The instinctive approach is to labour on the product or service offering but I recommend you start with a thorough understanding of the context for your business proposition. Specifically, I recommend that you familiarise yourself with the industry and where appropriate, segment you intend to operate in. Be sure you get to know what’s happening in it today (i.e. key trends and issues) and what the outlook for it is including any new products and developments. You must be able to articulate what the prospects are and how all of these will benefit or adversely affect your startup business as it brings your vision to life.
Your understanding of the market context will stand you in good stead for the next step in the process which is the conceptual development in as much detail as you can at this very early stage (that’s why your readers sign an NDA!) of your product or service offering. Think through and develop your ideas about its features, functions and the kind of customer experience you intend for it to deliver. Most importantly, be sure you know and can describe the value proposition it will deliver to your customers.
Now that you have a product or service value proposition and an understanding of the industry it will be delivered in, you should forensically analyse the different aspects of the market segment that your startup will be targeting. I recommend an in-depth analysis of the different customer profiles you intend to attract and retain for your revenues. At the very least, this should include some basic demographic and psychographic analysis of each group.
Next up on your Proposition check list of fact gathering and data analysis is the competitor landscape for your startup. Big or small, old or new be sure to identify the types of competitors with actual examples of each type and their operations. Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each identified competitor or type and think through how your startup intends to differentiate itself against them to build your business remembering that documentation of the facts, analysis and conclusions is key.
Be sure you identify any regulatory compliance requirements that will affect your startup as well as any dependencies you will have on others for input into your product or service development and delivery. The earlier in the process you are able to identify and bed down any issues associated with suppliers, contractors and compliance, the easier your life will be further down the line.
Finally, you should think through and devise the strategies that you believe will give you a clear advantage in the industry, build barriers to entry for new entrants, and exploit the weaknesses you identified in the incumbents.
When you have gone through this process and can honestly say you have executed each step with passion using all that is at your disposal, the result should be a well-articulated Proposition to a clearly defined customer base that will generate sustainable revenue while bringing your vision to life.
Harry ’Tomi Davies (TD) is an IT Systems Expert. His professional career began at IBM and includes executive roles at Elf Aquitaine, Marks & Spencer, Ernst & Young and Sapient. A systems analysis graduate from the University of Miami, TD has published numerous articles on IT Business management and technology-enabled learning. He is a co-author of business best-sellers “Corporate Bold”, “Cracking the Success Code” and author of “The African Project Manager”. He is board director and advisor to a broad range of companies including Berkshire Rooms, Sproxil Nigeria, Strika Entertainment, BaaS Technologies, MBO Capital, TextNigeria and TechnoVision Communications. Though he lives and works mostly in the UK, his focus in the last decade has been on technology-based entrepreneurship in Africa where he invests, mentors and focuses on developing an ecosystem of technology start-ups around co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators, angel funding, VC Capital, entrepreneur capacity development, state and national government policies. TD volunteers to a number of non-profit organisations and is a guest lecturer at the Pan Atlantic University's Enterprise Development Centre. He is an angel investor with a growing portfolio of tech-enabled businesses that originate from Africa. He is the founder of the Lagos Angel Network and President of the African Business Angels Network (ABAN).