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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Making your voice heard in the start-up community

Ryan Blakley

In the start-up community, creativity is cool. Particularly because the volume of new ideas is immense. Innovation helps a business stand above the rest and divergent ideas inspire interest.

However, in an increasingly saturated start-up community where the sheer number of ideas is deafening, it is often difficult to progress conversations past the “wow that is a cool idea!” stage.

An analogy I like to use is my email inbox. I receive hundreds of emails per day from various sites, all promising something different. With all this noise, I will often only properly read 2 or 3 per day. Why? Because that email is promising a solution to a problem I am experiencing.

A cool business idea will remain just a cool business idea unless it solves a particular problem. Conversations with interested persons will stop at the surface level without any meaningful engagement. However, when your business idea solves a customer problem, the customer begins to sell your business back to you.

That was what I learnt from attending this year’s CEBIT Australia exhibition, a leading showcase of the world’s up-and-coming technology businesses. I had the privilege of representing Laava at the exhibit, refining our business pitch and engaging with visitors who approached our stall.

The first milestone in the pitch was introducing the business idea at a high level. Laava produces its proprietary Smart Fingerprints, a product identifier that, when scanned by the Laava web scanner, surfaces content on that particular product’s provenance and story for the benefit of a potential purchaser. Scanning a Laava Smart Fingerprint provides consumers with transparency, allowing them to trust what they buy and learn the story behind it. It has potential applications that range from China-bound wine and pharmaceuticals to online documents and bank bills.

A Laava Smart Fingerprint unique to this bottle of Tamburlaine Wine

To set the scene, a significant proportion of the people I engaged with at CEBIT had, or knew people with, a product-orientated business. Moreover, plenty had experience with their product being counterfeited or were seriously concerned about the risk of having it counterfeited. Therefore, at this stage in the pitch, people usually noted that this was a nice idea.

To take this conversation to a new level of engagement, I often had to answer two questions. First, how is this Smart Fingerprint any different to a QR code? Second, what is preventing me from copying the Fingerprint? The answer to all of the above is in the name.

A counterfeiter could copy the Fingerprint and apply it to their copy product — in fact, that is what I would do. However, as a fingerprint is unique to the individual, each Smart Fingerprint is unique to the jar, bottle, box and document that it is applied to. Anyone can generate a QR code however, only Laava, has ownership over Fingerprint production.

This means that copying the Fingerprint and applying it to hundreds of other products would not be effective at scale as, since we record and show the scan count for each Fingerprint, the counterfeited products would score a suspiciously high scan count. For a consumer scanning the counterfeited product, being aware of the high scan count would be an immediate red flag for that product. Counterfeiter, better luck next time.

However, as a fingerprint is unique to the individual, each Smart Fingerprint is unique to the jar, bottle, box and document that it is applied to.

At this stage of the pitch, where I emphasised the unique nature of the Fingerprint per individual product, things immediately clicked. People began to suggest other focus areas that the Fingerprint could be applied to. In fact, some of the cases suggested above were also recommended by those at CEBIT. Some of those use-cases were even their own businesses! They began to sell Laava back to me.

It goes to show that when you solve a real problem, people begin to take notice of you. We want answers to our problems and we often limit our attention to the ideas that help us the most. Unfortunately, as the number of cool ideas continue to grow, it is becoming increasingly difficult to have your business remain visible. So how do you have your voice sing louder than the rest? Solve a problem for your customer.

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