"Ideas are a commodity, Execution of them is not.”
- Michael Dell
In today’s world, rather than ‘creating a new wheel’ altogether, many new businesses are being shaped out by building on ideas that are already existent in the market. But suppose you have put your heart and soul in a concept that you believe has the potential to bring about a change in the world and have spent numerous years perfecting, only to find out later that it is already out there! Moreover, suppose your product/service is too similar to the existing one and is protected by a patent or a trademark. In that case, your business idea may not even reach the ‘ignition’ stage.
So, the questions that would be addressed through this blog post are - How to figure out in advance if a startup idea already exists? What are the various methods and tools to help one achieve the same? What should be the desired course of action if it does exist?
Tools and Methods
The various tools are mentioned below:
The ‘search bar’ to the rescue - If your idea has already been implemented in the outside world, you’ll get a list of ventures that are competing in the segment, and this would give you a whole range of information about their:
- Target Audience
- Competitive Advantage a.k.a. USP
- How are they positioned in the minds of their customers?
- Demographics related information, i.e., where those firms operate
These pointers are quite handy as they would provide you with valuable insights and consumer expectations. Suppose a competitor is serving customers in the target demographic you have chosen. In that case, you will have to find a unique way to service those customers to gain a competitive edge by addressing the shortcomings your counterpart is unable to cater to.
Let’s illustrate the above through a real-life scenario. Even though Google wasn’t the world’s first search engine and space was dominated by Yahoo, Lycos and others, the simplicity and straightforward approach adopted by the former helped it rise to the very top. The way Google works is quite different, and its highly accurate search algorithms struck a chord with people across the globe.
A search may not provide you with information related to protected ideas, but there is a way to get around this and would be taken up in the subsequent section.
2. Check-in within your circles
These could range from your companions to associates working in various industries and sectors; try to collect their thoughts about the latest happenings in the same and the process, you could uncover a rich source of information.
3. Stay Updated
On an individual level, you could enrol yourself in various groups, forums and discussion rooms across the globe, many of which are free. This way, you could connect with like-minded people and those present in your field of interest and try figuring out if what they discuss around points to your idea.
Below mentioned are a few but important things to keep in mind while initiating a conversation with anyone so as not to let your ‘secret sauce’ spillover -
*Be careful as not to reveal details intricate to your business idea*
*Be witty in your responses*
*Don’t promise anything*
*If you feel your idea excites someone stops right there and does the math:
i) They could either be someone who could steal your idea or
ii) They might invest in your business. There is no procedure to distinguish between them, but a thorough background check before the meeting could help, or one could solely rely on one’s intuition.
4. Startup Consultants
One could avail the service of Startup Consultants because they invest their resources in numerous business ideas and would have access to a large pool of newly launched startup ventures. This signifies that they are well-armed with the requisite knowledge and could help you identify if there is an opportunity for you in the marketplace.
They may also assist in raising capital for your venture and also access the odds you are against and a strategy to mitigate around them.
5. Trademark and Patent Search
Various organisations across the world now find hiring those with expertise in Patent Filing and related domains. It helps them to assist in their R&D process; then there are Patent Engineers; and numerous entities have launched various online courses on Patenting – enough to show how important the profession is turning out to be.
There are quite a few websites available online. Still, the patent analysis is considered to be a full-time profession and requires solid experience, but below mentioned are a few steps that might accelerate your search query:
- Jot down your invention and underline the associated keywords in it.
- Now, look for ‘technical’ synonyms for the keywords you have selected. For instance, if the keyword is ‘network’, look for words such as mesh, grid, matrix; to refine your search query.
- Next step consists of joining these keywords with either the ‘and’ / ‘or’ connectors and searches them on multiple websites - Google Patents, uspto.com, patentscope, escapenet and others. If you find something similar, look up its ‘patent classification number’.
- This number can now be tallied with other patents in the classification to bring out the results.
Quick Tip – Just go through the abstract to get a gist of the paper and proceed accordingly.
*This is not a foolproof method but can help you get started - Subject to further research*
If you don’t find any ‘traces’ of your idea through the methods suggested above - Well, Kudos to you! Now, you could either apply for a patent to protect your idea from being reproduced or you could keep it open to the public.
But if things don’t turn out your way, there is no need to be dejected and give up the idea altogether. Globally known brands, namely Amazon, Google, and others were not the pioneers in their field, but their numbers speak for themselves. They have been consistently ranking amongst the top in terms of both – ‘value’ and ‘valuation’. Moreover, by conducting a series of research methods on your target audience, you could identify their ‘pain points’ and ‘rich insights’. It helps you and your team better your offering, beat your competitors, gain a stronghold and win the marketplace.
Important Glossary keywords:
- Refers to a form of intellectual property that provides the owner with exclusive rights to protect his / her idea from activities such as – copying, using and selling; for a specific period but in exchange, the owner needs to publish a public disclosure of the concept. It is a legal contract.
- It is also a form of intellectual property that consists of signs, symbols, design, expressions, that uniquely identify a firm’s offerings from those of others – ex—brand logos, taglines, etc.
- It is defined as a group of people that brands ideate messages to communicate their offerings to them. The T.A. is defined keeping a mindset of parameters i) Demographics (explained below) ii) Geographic – Urban / Rural iii) Behavioural – Habits and Frequency of Usage iv) Psychographics – Personality, Lifestyles, Interests.
- Comprises of the following - Gender, Age, Profession, Income / Education Level, Marital Status, for the defined Target Audience
- Stands for Unique Selling Proposition, which refers to those set of factors that differentiate a product/service from the crowd. It refers to “being known for something”.
- Refers to a ‘set of well-defined instructions that are implementable on a computer’ to solve a series of computations.
- Refers to words that help capture the essence of a document or topic.
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