The Best Startups Minimize Their Dimensions of Innovation

The best startups choose a main dimension or two of innovation and invest significant effort to truly differentiate themselves from the rest of the market along that dimension. At the same time, they leverage existing best practices along other potential dimensions of innovation and choose not to reinvent in those aspects of their business. This enables them to take smart risks by focusing on what they can dedicate the needed resources to win.

On the other hand, those startups that choose to innovate across a myriad of dimensions often find it difficult to focus given the large number of unknowns they need to solve. And while in theory the sum of their collective innovations should result in an even greater reward, the reality is executing extremely well becomes exceedingly difficult.

To make this concrete, let’s take a look at the most common dimensions of innovation in technology startups.

Product - Startups most commonly innovate by attacking an existing problem with a solution that is ideally 10X cheaper/faster/better than what is already on the market.

Design - More recently many startups have gotten even more specific by choosing to focus on delivering a better user experience than existing solutions.

Technology - A classic differentiator is building or leveraging unique technology to address the problem you are solving.

Market - Still others choose to build a product for a brand new market that they believe they will be able to create with their offering.

User Acquisition - The social and mobile revolutions have allowed many to bring existing products to new distribution channels and attain success. Many other new user acquisition channels continue to emerge and create great startup opportunities.

Business Model - The SaaS and microtransaction business models alone have fueled significant startup innovation in the past decade and the more recent B2D (Business to Developer) has enabled significant startup growth as well.

Picking any one of these dimensions as the bet your startup is taking is a prudent method of focusing your efforts. But building an innovative new product with a sexy new design and never before seen technology in a brand new market with a unique user acquisition strategy and an innovative new business model... is a recipe for disaster.

So make sure you understand the bet that your startup is taking and don’t let yourself get distracted by the rest.
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