Overweighting on current user behaviour may prevent you from finding opportunities.
High growth startups are inherently a bet on a customers future behaviour. Overweighting on current user behaviour may prevent you from finding opportunities.
When I brainstorm ideas with potential founders & friends, one of the traps I have seen myself and others fall into multiple times is that we think of user behaviour just within the present context and don’t consider future changes.
Startups are typically a 4+ year journey and in a world that is moving so fast, user behaviours change rapidly and we should put some risk-based weights on what that behaviour could look like.
This is most true for disruptive VC backed companies, the likes of AirBnB, Uber, Roam Research etc. Less true for other companies who are creating better solutions to a behaviour that currently already exist.
For e.g. when AirBnB was first starting out, the core bet was that hosts will be comfortable enough to give their homes away to strangers in exchange for money. On the other side strangers will be willing to live in strangers homes because it is cheaper than hotels and they will get an authentic local experience.
It could have been very easy to be Brian Chesky in 2008 and immediately discard this idea because of the following reasons:
- Alternatives already exist if you are price sensitive: you could theoretically live in a motel if you are very price sensitive.
- Hosts would much rather attempt to get long term rentals than operate their house as a hotel
- Hosts don’t want to let large number of strangers in their house (keep in mind that the sharing economy didn’t quite exist back then)
- Customers wouldn’t want to live in a strangers house
- There would be too much liability
..and many more reasons that I am sure you could find.
But AirBnBs success comes from the fact that between 2008 and now, there has been a massive shift in the sharing economy. The general public in North America are now more likely than ever to share everything: from cars (ZipCar), to Uber trips (Uber pool), to houses (AirBnB).
I don’t think this would have been an easy thing to predict with certainty in 2008, but I assume they identified there was atleast a tinge of possibility and this was the future that they personally want to envision, create & promote. Assumptions & risk taking about a future behavior + a strong desire to force that behaviour into reality was I think the reason they did not discard the idea over the years.
High growth startups are inherently a bet on future behaviour.