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Practically every day a new startup launches, each with the hope of solving a particular problem its founders have identified. Whether in the consumer, enterprise, ad-tech, or publishing space, there’s always at least one innovator trying to create something unique: a so-called breakthrough service that’ll be the next SpaceX or Facebook. Many will try, but let’s be honest in admitting that very few will likely succeed.
“If You Really Want To Change The World” offers insight and concrete steps the hopeful can take to advance their dreams of building something meaningful and long-lasting. Co-authored by Henry Kressel, a senior partner at private equity firm Warburg Pincus, and Norman Winarsky, cofounder of Siri and past president of SRI Ventures, this 189-page book offers advice to entrepreneurs who “really do want to make a dent in the world — to bring internet to villages in Africa, to develop new treatments for diseases, to improve the life of the elderly, and disabled, to provide clean water to all, and more.”
How to make a company that matters
In order to provide an actionable framework, Kressel and Winarsky have boiled their lessons down to eight key points:
- Identify a large market opportunity with potential for rapid growth.
Great companies have the ability to transform entire industries and services. In order to succeed, entrepreneurs have to identify the points that could trigger a transformational shift in how the market operates. This can be as a result of new governmental regulations, the convergence of technology with the market, a disruptive technology platform that either creates new products and services or destroys existing ones, or the expansion of international market access.
- Discover what makes your technology better than the competition.
When dealing with competition, entrepreneurs need to focus on why their company is superior. Sometimes that answer doesn’t lie with the core technology, but rather with a slew of other capabilities.
- Build a team of people who know what they’re doing and have the leadership, energy, domain knowledge, and commitment to move the company forward.
Founders cannot do everything themselves so they’ll need people who are equally as committed to the venture’s success. Bringing on board temporary help won’t be enough. Putting an effective team in place starts with identifying who will be the CEO and then establishing who will fill out the rest of the roles and the benefits they’ll receive.
- Develop a value proposition and business plan to entice investors.
Fully detail the value your product or service provides for the world. The book outlines the seven parts of a solid business plan, including having a succinct mission statement, a compelling vision, a sound business model, a go-to-market strategy, a deep understanding of your competition, and more.
- Find the investors and members of the board who will be active in building value in the venture.
It’s one thing to get funding, but choosing an investor is an important decision. Founders need to select those who will be partners, mentors, and supporters of their company. Not only will they provide financial capital, but they’ll need to advise on strategic issues in order to help you succeed. You win, they win.
- Build the organization, and execute with power, speed, and agility.
Once your company has gotten off the ground, it’s time to take another look at the organizational structure and to get feedback on your product from your customers. Always be testing and looking for responses from the user.
- Manage success when your company evolves from a startup to a large company.
By this stage in the process, you’ve hopefully received some substantial investment that will help propel you from a startup to a much larger company. Look at your options for your company’s future: Should you sell, merge, find new investors, or go public? Here’s when you’re going to think strategically about the next 5 to 10 years (at least).
- Ensure the future: don’t stop innovating.
Don’t stop innovating or you’ll find your company struggling. Your startup was born out of a desire to change the world, or at least the market — it can’t run out of steam now, can it?
Heard it before, but it’s different coming from Siri
“If You Really Want To Change The World” has a lot in common with business books already on the market, but what sets it apart are the examples that Kressel and Winarsky cite throughout. Instead of mentioning the likes of Airbnb, Uber, Facebook, Google, and Apple as pioneers in breakthrough technology, Kressel and Winarsky guide us through experiences laid out by SRI companies such as Nuance and, of course, Siri.
Many know Siri as the feature on Apple’s popular iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. But building an artificial intelligence assistant wasn’t easy. The opening chapters recount Winarsky’s experience building Siri, culminating in its acquisition by Apple.
“The breakthrough idea behind Siri was simple and powerful: in contrast with search engines, we decided that Siri would be a ‘do engine’ that would allow people to use their natural spoken language to get answers to their queries rather than by clicking on the smartphone; all the effort to get the answers would be done by Siri…Siri would allow people to buy tickets, make reservations, get the weather report, and find a movie by speaking into a smartphone. Siri would give them answers, not links.”
The book is filled with many interesting case studies, and this is an organization that should know something about breakthrough ventures. Besides Siri and Nuance, it has helped to contribute to speech recognition and translation products, created the real-time airline reservation system, developed LCD technology, invented the mouse, and created ARPANET, which gave rise to the Internet as we know it.
Certainly, Kressel and Winarsky have the backgrounds to speak with authority about creating long-lasting and market-changing technology. I have to say, much of what they cover has been written about before, and some of the concepts felt familiar. But if you want to look at the relevant case studies these innovators have to offer, along with their insights into an industry they know inside and out, then “If You Really Want To Change The World” may well be for you.
“If You Really Want To Change The World” is on sale now.
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