Today, we came across a pretty nifty website that tech and gadget comdian Tom Scott whipped together on why your startup is doomed. It's fairly tongue-in-cheek quiz, which Tom freely admits, but it asks a few questions that startups should be asking of themselves. Let's take a closer look at a couple of them.
Is Your Startup a Smartphone App?
That's the first question that pops up. You have two choices: "Yes! How'd you guess?" or "No, it's something else." Choose the latter and the quiz continues. Choose the first one, you'll get a message that proclaims that "You're doomed" with a huge picture of fireball reaching far into the sky.
Tom brings up a good point in that there are a gazillion mobile apps. OK, not a gazillion, but there sure are a lot. There's more than 500,000 for the iPhone alone. He also points out that 60% or more of iPhone apps don't even break even, pointing to this excellent article on the topic. So he's not just being a bit playful, he's actually making a valid point here.
Now there's nothing wrong with native apps. We love 'em. Lots of us around the office have them loaded up on our iPhones. But we've said it before and we'll say it again, in the long run, it'll be the responsive web that outlasts the native app. What we'll see is the web take on more and more functions from native apps. In other words, we shouldn't get stuck designing our products solely for a native app.
Can Your Company Be Summed Up as "It's Like X, for Y"?
As you get deeper and deeper into the questions, you'll hit this gem. Once again you get two choices of answers: "That's my elevator pitch!" or "Nope, we're different." If you choose the last one, you move again. If say it's your elevator pitch — boom goes the fireball! You're doomed.
Here's how Tom puts it:
You're like Facebook, but for knitters? Guess what: they're just going to use Facebook. You're like Foursquare, but for PR professionals? They're going to use Foursquare.
In other words, you're doomed. Better pack it in. We can't tell how many times we run across a startup that says they're the next Facebook, but for [insert niche group here]. But that's not really being innovative. You're just imitating. Imitation, after all, is suicide.
True innovation isn't imitation. It's seeing what's come before, seeing ways of improving on it and building a better product from there. Like Steve Jobs and the Xerox personal computer and mouse. Jobs didn't merely imitate it, he saw what they missed and built on that.
There are a great deal many more interesting questions, but these are the ones that really stuck out for us. So is your startup doomed? Find out and take the quiz. Then come back and tell us how you did in the comments below!