Are You a Trend Chaser?

I was talking to an entrepreneur the other day and shared with her my feedbacks in regard to her business in general. Her story may be educational to our readers here, so I got her permission to share her case and my thoughts on the matter.

To protect the privacy of the subject, all the personal or confidential information has been taken out or modified, but it shouldn’t compromise the integrity of the story.

Leslie quitted her job for about 18 months and had set up a studio specializes in developing mobile apps.

The company’s first app was a candy crush clone with a tiny twist.

The second one is pretty much an instagram clone.

The third is a Pinterest like apps, except focusing on a particular vertical.

The fourth one is yet another snapchat like apps, but tailor-made for a niche market.

Though none of her apps had enough traction to justify market viability, as a fellow entrepreneur, I respect her persistence in pivoting from one business model to the other. Meanwhile, in the spirit of achieving business success, I found the thinking behind these series of pivots signaling rooms for improvement.

First, the business models being selected lack originality. That is, every product follows too much the footsteps of the just-gone-famous companies. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if the clone is a way better mousetrap, but as a startup playing catch-up, that may not be the most cost effective strategy.

Second, the time given for each app before pivoting to another one is relatively short. In average, each project is given only 4 months to develop and show traction.

Assuming the minimum viable product (MVP) takes 2 months to develop, which already is quite aggressive, that leaves only about 2 months to market the app for rapid iterations. I don’t have objection about agile programming with rapid release cycle, but how long to validate the product before making the judgement call to pivot to a different product perhaps should take some serious product thinking based upon market feedback instead of keep chasing another trend.

Third, as a side-effect of the rapid pivot cycle mentioned above, the clone being developed is quite a watered-down version of the real deal out there. Though some new features are being introduced as differentiations, they are by far compelling enough to draw users away from the incumbent.

Building MVP is important, but with the strong presence and viral market share of the incumbent (not to mention the substantial backing of the venture money), it’s a daunting uphill battle even Napoleon didn’t want to get himself into.

If I were Leslie, I would go back to the drawing board, and find a market that I have intimate knowledge about, identify the inefficiency or pain in the market and come up with a creative solution to fill the gap and add value.

In general, chasing the trend and following someone’s footstep is like buying high in the stock market, something I would stay away from.


You may also be interested in the following:

  1. Entrepreneur Corner
  2. From Survival to Prosperity