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Project and Business defensibility

Using Guy Kawasaki’s primer, analysing a major project I’m associated with yields:

  1. “We know that there are no ‘magic bullets’ that provide defensibility.” We know that there is not a single shield that we can raise that can make our proposition impermeable.
  2. “We have filed for patents, but we know that we cannot depend on patents as a major component of defensibility.” We are re-commercialising intellectual property assets that have been developed in the marketplace over the last 6 years.
  3. “We have an x month head start […], and what we’re doing is hard. We know we have, at best, a temporary lead. It’s so hard that few established companies would defocus themselves by trying to do what we’re doing.” We have about a 9 to 12 month head start, on what is usually a difficult and expensive arena to break into. We are using our Laboratory results to generate tangible digital objects. It’s not so hard that it’s impossible for competitors to simulate, but it would significantly defocus our contemporaries’ stated business plans to do so.
  4. “We’ve built similar businesses before.” We have built two enterprises like this before, both of which are still viable market propositions.
  5. “We’ve amassed a ton of relevant domain expertise because our founders sold to these customers before.” We have been selling to the same type of customers for a number of years, and they are meta-customers at this stage of the development.
  6. “We used to work at [insert big-name company], so we know it won’t be a competitor. In fact, we quit the company to start this because our management refused to address this lucrative market. We work at FooTelco, so we know it won’t be a competitor. In fact, we will quit the company to start this because our management could not address this lucrative market in the timeframe required.
  7. “We don’t know if we’re the only people who can or are doing this, but we’ve already signed up key customers like [insert the biggest names that you truthfully can] to use our product. You’d think they’d know of better solutions if they existed.” We have already been approached by new customers and investment portfolio siblings, and we believe that they would know of better solutions if they existed.
  8. “We came to you because we believe that the backing of a firm like yours will dissuade other firms from investing in competitive companies. We also know that you have a world-class Rolodex as well as access to the best talent.” We came to you as we have been mentored by you in the past, and as we have a common business focus in the type of solution we can offer back to our former investors.
  9. “We expect that there will be competition because we’re not working on a get-rich-quick gimmick. This is a real business that we think is going to be big.” We are developing an entire platform for the space, perpared for competition, as that is the only way the business can prosper.
  10. “It’s a race, and we’re going to work like hell to reach escape velocity. That’s the bottom line.” We are laying our hands on as much “platform resource” (product and enabling service) as we can, to deploy as rapidly as we can, to hit escape velocity as fast as we can.

And we aspire to the self-analysis checklist: “When all the dust settles, the goal is to paint this picture:

  • You’re street wise, so you know that you can’t depend on patents.
  • You understand that very few companies are truly defensible for reasons other than because they either achieved critical mass or had a nine-month head start.
  • You have domain expertise, connections, and what you’re doing is hard.
  • You’re not the only team that can do this, but you’re in a better position than most.
  • You believe that you can build a business better than anyone (a little cockiness is necessary for an entrepreneur to survive).”

…and to the one, last, power-point:

These explanations will only work on an investor that already fundamentally believes in what you’re doing. If the investor doesn’t believe, then there’s probably nothing that you can say that will convince him of your defensibility. Nor, frankly, is defensibility the sole reason why he’s not interested.

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