Quit Dating Frogs

Quit Dating Frogs

The most widely cited problem for startup failure is lack of market need.  It’s easy to blame the market.  What this more often means is that the founders built a product to their grand vision was not in alignment with a validated market need, or there was a disconnect between the product and the addressable market.

Growing a startup is an iterative process, and it’s my observation that most are almost certain to fail in their first attempt.  I am often reminded of a quotation by Thomas Edison after many unsuccessful attempts to create an incandescent light bulb “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

The sentiment is similar among VC’s.  Experienced venture capitalists will point out, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.

(source: https://list25.com/25-most-useless-inventions-ever/)

Ultimately finding out what can’t work will sooner lead you to finding out what can work.   The question becomes, how can we fail (and hopefully ultimately succeed) as quickly as possible with the least investment of time and money?

You might have the best idea in the world, but you need to first consider whether there’s a market. Here are a couple of things to consider when determining whether your great idea is feasible:


  1. A strong understanding of customer problems and validation of the idea will help clarify the addressable markets (or potential markets). Just because the solution to a problem is interesting to you, does not mean it is driven by a validated market need.  

(source: http://famepace.com/weird-silly-inventions-32-photos/weird-and-silly-inventions-3/)


One of the main causes of failure is untested assumptions.   Bottom line: a full understanding of the problems is crucial in the discovery of potential target markets.



  1. Do your homework. Start with Google.  Interview prospective users/customers.   Research competing IP and solutions. A patent attorney can perform a patent search to make sure there are no existing patents or inventions similar to your own. Or let REX help you develop a data driven strategy.  Search on existing patent number(s), blocks of text, keywords, URLs or PDF documents to find semantically similar academic literature, research grants, and patents, and IP within minutes.

For disruptive technologies and companies, it can be very difficult to identify an addressable market in the first place.  Perhaps you have not (and should not) ruled out the possibility of new applications/markets for an existing technology.   The REX radar chart will dynamically analyze and build a natural clustering of content based on technology taxonomy.  Here is a sample rendering for a specific technology in the cryptocurrency space that is broken down into three major categories: 25% electronic sciences, 24% computing sciences, 17% energy sciences.  Clicking on any of these major categories on the left side will display a radar chart that is dynamically organized into sub-categories.  Color gradients indicate relevancy for each of the segments with in a sub-category.  You may click on any segment in the radar chart to drill down into correlated and/or competing technologies (semantically similar documents) in that technology space.

Identify a technology in a highly developed form, and see where there might be an opportunity to reposition for new applications (in new sectors and new markets).   So say you have two technologies, a therapeutic and a very specific type of delivery agent that on their own may have a commercialization gap, but together they are much more viable.   How can research be “combined” to create a more compelling and viable commercialization opportunity?   We want to improve the ability to take great ideas to market.  We can help you with this step.


One final thing to note is that validating a problem is one thing, identifying a solution that people will pay for (and determining how much?) is another.  Research where people are investing their money in the orbit of your technology/IP.  Take cues from the best and brightest innovators on REX and track what types of projects are listed on the GetFunded portal.   What types of projects are getting launched?  Who is investing now?  How much?


And don’t forget: Kiss a lot of frogs, but never date a frog.

If you’re an entrepreneur in search of your “prince”, click here to develop your data-driven strategy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *