By Nav Athwal, founder and CEO of RealtyShares.
Technology and innovation are two leading drivers in the development of nascent industries. When the right ideas are married with the right technological tools, a creation of new territory that's ripe for exploration results. The success of these new industries largely hinges on their ability to provide value that supersedes what established industries offer.
Two of the most notable industries to undergo a transformative change thanks to technology in recent years are transportation and hospitality. Uber and Airbnb have leveraged technology to revolutionize their respective industries. Both companies found ways to improve upon the inefficiencies that made their industries frustrating for consumers. They didn't reinvent the wheel; they simply found a way to present it to the masses in a more accessible way.
I believe game-changing companies use the existing framework as a stepping stone for improving upon processes that are already in place. For entrepreneurs who are hoping to establish a new industry or redefine one, the question becomes how to go about doing it. From my experience with starting my business, I've found there are certain factors that are necessary:
Passion and Perseverance
When you're starting a new company, you have to be an optimist. It's natural to have a certain degree of fear, but your belief in the value of your product or service has to outweigh it. You're taking a leap of faith at this stage, but the landing is likely to be smoother when you're passionate about what you're bringing to the marketplace. Perseverance is just as important as passion.
Anyone can come up with an idea, but it requires follow-through to give it form. At the same time, entrepreneurs can't allow themselves to become complacent. The moment you stop striving for improvement, you leave yourself vulnerable to being outdone by the competition.
A Customer-Centered Mindset
Laying the groundwork of a new company (and on a broader scale, a new industry) begins with diving deep and determining on a granular level what problem you're solving for the customer. The customer should always be at the forefront of your mind, not only in the early days of your company, but as you continue to evolve and grow.
When you stop paying attention to the customer, you invite trouble. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs focus on the bells and whistles when they should be starting on a smaller scale. Building a prototype, for example, gives you an opportunity to test your product or service and identify what your target customers truly want. In some cases, this may mean doing things that don't scale.
These exercises still have value if they yield feedback that positively shapes your next stage of development. By keeping the customer in sight at all times, you're more likely to create something that has a tangible market fit.
Communication With Your Peers
Oftentimes with entrepreneurs who are positioning themselves to be front-runners, there's a strong temptation to play your cards close to the vest. There's an underlying fear that your ideas may be compromised in some way if they're being shared with others. While that's certainly rational thinking, it's not necessarily helpful.
When you're breaking ground on a new industry, getting outside feedback can be instrumental in shaping your next steps. Communicating your ideas is also a way to get others excited about what you're doing and garner support for your efforts. Others' excitement can serve to fuel your own. And as you talk about what you're doing, you're helping to develop the language by which your industry will be known.
New industries are unpredictable. With no inherent structure to guide burgeoning companies, ideas can evolve in multiple directions. As an entrepreneur, it's imperative that you stay on your toes at all times. Keeping the competition in your rearview can be the motivator. Hold true to your core beliefs, read your customer and enjoy the ride.
Nav Athwal is the Founder and CEO of RealtyShares, an online curated marketplace for real estate investing.