The past few weeks have been all about the runway, and rightfully so. But managing your runway needs to be complemented with a plan to grow. Otherwise, all you're doing is surviving for a few more months and delaying the inevitable. In the countless webinars I've attended so far, it's all been about runway management, and there hasn't been enough focus and encouragement to let founders do what they do best: Dream & imagine!
Now is the moment for companies to architect the future. Let’s worry less about the shape of the recovery curve (will it be a V or a U shape...) and more with how we’ll contribute to society’s ‘exit plan’ in constructive ways. Because if you do, your runway will thank you and make you more attractive for follow-on investment should you need it, since by then you'll have a leader position and a grounded plan to scale. We need startups to be these creative, innovative companies that will build the "new normal."
We see two types of startups that will fit this historic task. 'Creator' companies who predominantly dream and imagine the future, which will position them to be leaders, and 'early followers,' who will intelligently scan their sector for the 'creators' and follow them to success. We fit these two company behaviours into the below models.
The Dream-Lead-Adapt Model
Below are the main phases a 'creator' company needs to go through at different stages of the economic recovery path.
There’s no one to give you the cue except yourself and your consumer’s needs, hopes and anxieties. Imagine you have the opportunity to start from scratch so think big and be ambitious.
Explain to your consumers the why and the how; guide them to your vision with storytelling that’s imbued with empathy, purpose and authenticity. Let them play with it, break it apart, fix it and make it better.
Continuously listen & solicit feedback from your users; iterate & test as you normally would, and don’t be afraid to fail gracefully. This is a unique time when coincidence may lead to creativity and success where no perfection is necessary.
For some inspiration on our DLA model, here's how FineDine is imagining the future of the dining sector, and how they’re working to lead it to the new normal.
The Search-Follow-Adopt Model
What if you’re not one of them or are in a panic? You should still be able to adapt to the new normal before everyone else by being an 'early follower'. Early being the keyword. Don’t wait for mass adoption, because by then, you’ll be too late. Early also allows you to share other’s dreams, enrich and contribute to them in a way that makes sense for you. So Search, Follow and Adopt to win.
It starts with awareness of what needs to change; what’s broken. Without awareness, you can’t really define the boundaries of the necessary change. Then, you need to search and discover those creator companies who have dreamt of this change and observe what they’re doing.
Analyse the different Ideas creator companies are employing in your sector, select the ones that fit the change you need and customise it further to fit your business and customer needs. This is not following blindly; it’s following with intention and intellect.
Same as the #DLAmodel but with a slight twist: adopt instead of adapt. Continuously listen & solicit feedback from your users; iterate & test as you normally would, and don’t be afraid to fail gracefully.
Your imagination required
Culture makers like sociologists, psychologists, historians, novelists & behavioural economists like Cass Sunstein will help us understand the possible future scenarios where consumer mindset, behaviour and demand might shift to. We encourage you to read and follow these experts, who will be able to tell you how the world recovered from the Spanish flu, how long it took for the adjustment period, who led the transition for the public, what imagination was abound by the authors of the time that led the public to adapt and more. As a starter, we recommend reading this Business Insider article on 11 ways pandemics have changed the course of human history, and this New Yorker article on how pandemics change history.
But as Marc Andreessen pointedly lays out, “it’s time to build!” Building on the knowledge of culture makers and your boundless imagination, it’s your opportunity to navigate consumers to your designed future.
So congratulations on your extended runway. Now let's imagine how best to use it to change the world.