First we do the legwork, pre-launch, to gauge just how viable our business idea is. Then, once we're up and running, comes the all-important phase of signing and executing contracts with early adopters.
Which is fair enough, and nothing unexpected when it comes to the earliest stages of a new startup. But it's what happens next that can throw many entrepreneurs for a loop: once the idea of our business is out there, how many ways can it be adapted to suit the needs of our customers and potential customers?
That's exactly what happened when we launched Enolytics, which provides big data services to the wine industry. Naturally we knew what our initial offering was but we also knew that, since data analysis was (and is) still a new concept for the wine industry, we'd have to be nimble and responsive to the needs that were being expressed. This meant a lot of listening and, for the sake of our bottom line, even more understanding of how to scale what seemed at first to be one-off or custom projects.
It isn't easy. There are projects we're managing now that frankly we couldn't have anticipated when we launched, and were not even on our radar during the writing of our business plan.
One of those developments was our first official international partnership: Enolytics Spain.
There was no way we could have anticipated the particular development of Enolytics Spain, because we couldn't have predicted that there was a data group in Madrid who had been planning to do very much the same thing. There was no way to know, until we launched and the idea was "out there."
But that isn't the only time that such a development has occurred. Here are three consistent factors that are in place, to help such evolutions come to fruition. These three factors formed the framework, or the "skeleton," for new muscles of a business to develop around.
There is already momentum.
The group in Spain was already working with data. Their families are embedded in the Spanish regions of wine, and they already have industry contacts. And they had already gone through the logistics of planning an initiative that looks very much like our own.
Are you likely to be quite as lucky with your own new business? You can increase your chances if you see participants in your industry as collaborators rather than outright competitors. If that is a stance that's authentic to you, then you'll orient your outreach to reflect that openness to partnerships that will, in the end, add up to more than the sum of its parts.
The business model is replicable, and can accommodate new iterations.
Some of our most significant data partners have a global footprint, which means that the work we've been doing for clients mainly within the US is also doable outside the US, including Spain in this case and also throughout Europe.
That's an important operational necessity: that the infrastructure of your core business allow for replication elsewhere. If it can be adjusted to accommodate new opportunities in different geographies, then a main component of ramping up is already underway.
Face to face matters.
Shortly after Andrés Bonet contacted me about a satellite office in Madrid, where he lives, he drove to Bordeaux to meet me; I'd been teaching at a university there that week. We sat and talked on the edge of a fish market, with a few burly and very vocal fishmongers in the background, in the midst of a bustling Saturday morning market in November.
The business is data is transacted in zeroes and ones, of course, but face-to-face was where the business of our partnership was transacted. (Accompanied by the soundtrack of fishmongers throwing fish.)
If you have these three factors in place, perhaps it's time to look for your next iteration or partnership. Consider these questions: Where is there already momentum around the idea? In which markets can your idea also work, where you haven't already prospected? Who have you met that you can envision working with? What gatherings or conferences can you attend where there are like-minded people, either in terms of the technology or the mission, or both?
The essence of entrepreneurship is putting a new idea out there. Something, probably many things, are bound to go wrong. But it's what you'll learn along the way that make launching the idea - and its subsequent iterations - worth doing.