HOW TO SEE THE FUTURE
There’s a real skill I’ve started to realize many successful founders and startup investors have. That skill is the ability to see the future.
In my infinite naivete as a very recent college graduate, I had originally thought that with enough ‘market research’ and ‘product development’, it would be straightforward to figure out what types of market openings would make for a good startup. I’d spend a disproportionate amount of time learning how to format and write a good business plan, and I’d meticulously research for relevant data, competitors, and compile information on them.
In tech entrepreneurship, there is a huge flaw with this approach that renders most of the competitive analysis useless and dangerously misleading.
By the time any startup has gotten to the point that it has enough web-presence to be researchable, they already have a huge headstart and their momentum is building even as you sit and research them.
Things move too quickly in technology for you to spend your time researching competitors that are researchable! The only way I’ve found to get around this problem is to meet people in person and get deep into conversations with them about what is happening in the industry. Chances are, if you do this enough, you will start to get a good feel for what people see as opportunities and gaps in the market. Most importantly, rumors of new companies often spread this way, and you can catch wind of what is happening long before it has enough time to get enough web presence to be researchable.
The nice thing I’ve learned about tech entrepreneurs is that they are a very friendly bunch! I’ve rarely encountered entrepreneurs that won’t take a few minutes and get a coffee to chat about what they are seeing.
To be able to tell the future, talk to the people who are building it – talk to as many as you can, in as many fields as you can, and do it constantly. It won’t be long before you start to see things happening long before anyone else will. It is really remarkable!