I’ve been thinking about how a strong “vision and mission” makes start-up and scale-up companies “buyable and believable”, especially those struggling to get a foothold in the market.
“Vision” is really about painting a (unique) picture for where your industry is heading, how you think it will (or should) develop, and what your role in it will be. It’s important because it gives confidence to a range of stakeholders – investors, customers, even employees – that you have direction, purpose and focus. It makes you “buyable”.
At best, it can be inspirational, energising and motivational. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, for example, has recently been espousing his vision for the firm’s role in what he calls the Omniverse, which… “fuses the physical and virtual worlds to simulate reality in real time with photorealistic detail” (check out Project Marbles). Sounds great.
But it’s also easy to get it wrong. Ericsson has recently been selling its vision for 6G. Its chief researcher, Magnus Frodigh, exclaims to “…see a future where the smartphone will not even be needed.” It’s unique, but would you buy into a telecoms infrastructure company that doesn’t see a future for smartphones?
A vision alone is not enough. It needs to be substantiated with a mission to make the vision and its seller “believable”. A “mission” is really about what you do, how you do it, and who you do it for – the value that you bring.
That’s much easier for established companies like Nvidia and Ericsson, who have decades of development and success to fall back on. But it’s much harder if you’re a start-up or scale-up, with few customers or market experience.
A lot of deep tech companies are founded on fabulous technology, science and innovation, but very often they are solutions looking for problems. To achieve commercial success, there has to be a market need for them. They must have some intrinsic value to paying customers.
The very specific communications challenge you face is to articulate your “value” – why anyone would want to buy into you in the first place?
CB Insights’ analysis of why start-ups fail found that “tackling problems that are interesting to solve rather than those that serve a market need was cited as the number 1 reason for failure”, noted in 42% of cases.
The key feature of disruptive technologies – and particular “deep” technologies – is their ability to enable new markets, or change the value proposition in existing ones. But in the The Innovator’s Dilemma Clayton M. Christensen points out that it’s impossible to study and value non-existent markets.
So how do you prove value when your exciting new technology doesn’t yet have a place to call home? Answer: create the need, build the opportunity.
Apple’s Steve Jobs focused directly on the customer, creating opportunity from expectation. Napster had been sued by the music industry for illegal file sharing, but Jobs recognised the need for a legal framework for music downloads. That gave birth to a music library-supported iPod. Jobs said, “Our job is to figure out what [customers are] going to want before they do…People don't know what they want until you show it to them...Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
For deep techs, value comes not from what customers are already spending money on. Nor is it about the intrinsic value of a technology (though defendable patents are important). It’s about how your technology can reshape or build a new market – the customer needs that are anticipated and the opportunity it creates for them. Fulfilling these needs and opportunities is your mission, and your value.
To be buyable and believable, you need a combination of both vision for where customers are going, and a mission for how you are going to drive that change. Are you buyable and believable? What’s your mission and vision?
It’s really hard to do this yourself. We’re here to help, and can run you through our values, messaging & positioning process to help you find yours.
See how we used it for Tribe Payments, driving investor interest, qualified leads, high profile speaker slots – and of course, media coverage.
Just send me an email directly or send us a message when you’re ready to talk.