It’s getting harder and harder for entrepreneurs to create a product or service that is truly “brand new“.
That is, something revolutionary that creates a market of its own.
However, there still is ample opportunity to figure out a way to do what I call “threading the needle” – creating a tiny crack, or distinction, that forces it to stand out even in a crowded existing market.
When an entrepreneur can find that little crack, and thread that needle, it’s a pitch dance that becomes an exquisite thing of beauty, and it can become irresistible to investors.
There is a growing list of startup CEOs here in Portland (and the rest of Oregon) who are doing the exquisite dance right now, and it’s been a joy to watch them.
And a few of them are even taking on HUGE established industries – like Trillion dollar industries, as Josh Reich is doing here in Portland with Simple, who is taking on the banking industry without any brick and mortar branches, or even a real bank. Here’s the needle Simple is attempting to thread, according to Reich (from Business Insider):
“We started Simple with the realization that banks make money by keeping customers confused. Banks make money when customers make mistakes… In addition to being absolutely clear with customers about their accounts, thereby diminishing fees, we also help people get a clearer picture of their finances.”
Reich has done his exquisite dance to the tune of $18 Million in venture capital financing, and with an interest list of 250,000, they are slowly adding customers to the service – 55,000 customers and counting so far.
Another Portland-based venture that’s taking on a trillion-dollar industry is Green Zebra Grocery, led by Lisa Sedlar. She’s taken dead aim at threading the needle in the grocery business with her healthy convenience store concept, which she calls “7-Eleven meets Whole Foods”. The stores would be around 6,000 sq. ft, much smaller than your typical supermarket.
The crack she’s trying to run through has two elements- I’ll let her explain (from BikePortland.org):
Convenience: ”The model itself is built on the idea of a 20-minute neighborhood, so all your goods and services are built to be available within a 20-minute walk or bike.”
Healthy Food: ”The idea is that it’s not food for ‘those people,’ it’s food for everyone. The idea of these stores is that it’s the new normal.”
Sedlar has done her exquisite dance and raised $4MM before a single store has opened (the first in north Portland will open in October), and has already built a “buzzy” brand presence (over 3,200 likes on Facebook, for example).
The needle he’s trying to thread? Too much noise on mainstream Social Media channels. Here’s what he says on their “About” page:
“Hallspot was born from the desire to create a better college experience. We’re frustrated with how existing social media ignores us, and we want to provide a better college network for students everywhere”
Thorne is in just the first few bars of his exquisite dance, but Hallspot is already gaining some initial momentum on the eve of their launch at the beginning of October- over 6,000 University of Oregon students have already pre-registered, and he’s raised $400,000 in seed financing.
These three entrepreneurs are seizing on what they believe are weaknesses in existing markets – will they succeed?
Time will tell, but the core lesson they bring us is loud and clear -
With the right vision, talent, drive, passion, and moxie, there’s no market safe from the exquisite dance of the entrepreneur.
Good luck to them all, and keep the music playing!