MIT Sloan Associate Dean for Innovation Fiona Murray
From City A.M.
Increasingly, it is innovation-driven entrepreneurs who are providing effective and scalable solutions rather than aid agencies or governments.
Traditionally, the focus of entrepreneurship in the developing world has been on creating small- and medium-sized enterprises serving local markets. However, that emphasis must shift from small firms to what MIT calls innovation-driven enterprises: start-ups that can scale for significant impact.
Building an innovation-driven enterprise is full of challenges for any entrepreneurial team. They must find an appropriate beachhead market, prototype and pilot, and recruit and retain top talent. They also require specialised entrepreneurial finance at each stage.
For development entrepreneurs, access to appropriate types of capital is a significant constraint.
Their challenges are not just about the limited availability of institutionalised venture capital, but to the full range of “risk capital” options, from initial financing by friends and family and angel investors to VCs, private equity and commercial banking. The creation of a pipeline of financial instruments is a critical bottleneck.
Georgina Campbell Flatter, MEng (Oxon) SM, is the Executive Director of the MIT Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT and Lecturer in Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management
MIT Sloan Experts participated in a Twitter chat with Georgina Campbell Flatter MS MEng, Executive Director, MIT Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship, Lecturer in Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management and Chris Stokel-Walker, a dynamic writer for The Economist, The Guardian and The New Statesman.
In today’s fast-changing world, new product teams are constantly pushed to do more faster. They need to run fast to keep up with rapidly changing market conditions. Oftentimes it means making decisions about what to invest in with very little information. How can teams validate hypotheses without over-investing on speculative engineering projects, and potentially losing time and money building the wrong thing?
It turns out that there is another way. In both B2B and B2C scenarios, you can often get a very good read on the interest and even purchase intent from potential economic buyers by running a series of landing page tests.
What is a landing page test?
A landing page test is a form of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) test, in which one uses a landing page as a way of gauging some aspect of customer interest and/or purchase intent.
While you can gather a tremendous amount of insight by running detailed, open-ended interviews with potential customers, at the end of the day you are still limited by what the customer thinks they will do, instead of what they will actually do. Purchase intent is frequently inflated when you test your product idea with people face to face, because they are often loath to hurt your feelings by telling you the truth. It’s emotionally much easier to just say “yes, this is very interesting!” or “Sure! I will certainly buy it!” rather than “you are talking to the wrong person – I have no interest whatsoever.”
When most of us think of multisided platforms, the ones that come to mind are those, like Apple and Facebook, that make heaps of money. Or unicorns like Uber that, if cap tables mean anything, someday will. Of course, anyone who really knows the history of platforms may recall the many that aspired to make gobs of money but never did and quickly died (think of the many B2B exchanges that never made it to the other side of dot-com bust). And don’t forget your brother-in-law’s great platform idea, which will make you both rich if only you would invest your life savings in his startup.
What’s amazing, though, is that there are many platforms that have created massive value, but have never made a profit, and don’t even strive to make money — on purpose.
Most likely, you have of one of the worldwide champs in this category in your wallet. MasterCard and Visa didn’t make, or even look, for profits for decades. MasterCard started as a not-for-profit membership association, in 1966, and Visa did the same, in 1971. Both associations managed their brands and ran the clearing and settlement systems for banks that issued cards or helped merchants accept cards. These card networks were allowed to charge their members just enough to cover cost and provide working capital. (For more on this, read Dee Hock’s book about starting up the Visa network.)