By Rupert Jenner, founder and CEO at Playcaddy
Austerity has always presented a rich breeding ground for innovation, and this is particularly salient in the technology sector, especially as utilising technology can offer improved efficiencies through productivity gains and cost reductions.
However, austerity also presents barriers to the adoption of new technologies. There is an invigorated propensity for risk aversion, making better use of existing software resources, and simply not spending money on upfront purchase and installation costs. Austere technologies are an attractive proposition in this environment, with minimal and robust features delivered unobtrusively through cloud and mobile technologies.
Austerity also presents new markets for innovative technology, and it is important that startups constantly evaluate the landscape of their market. It may have looked one way when writing the initial business plan, but under economic and social influences the sands may have been shifting without you really noticing. This doesn’t just involve watching your existing market, but also looking for other market opportunities for your product. During times of financial cutbacks markets may open up, that had previously lain dormant during more prosperous times.
A good example of this is cutbacks in sports facility funding by local authorities. These facilities have been identified as expenses that essentially need to become self-funded. Local authorities have therefore sought new tenants in these facilities, who can make them work more effectively. In many cases, for examples, park tennis facilities are being adopted by local clubs as satellite tennis communities as they are able to bring their resources in to organise coaching, competitions, and social sport sessions to reinvigorate tennis participation on the courts and drive revenue from them.
This shift, initiated by a reduction in government funding, has created a new, viable market in the sports sector – public sports communities. Monitoring the progress of these sports initiatives will enable a technology provider to better understand their requirements and also determine the potential growth and further changes.
The key to identifying these new markets is engagement. Direct conversation can often reveal far more in a few minutes than many days of office-based research. So, it’s important to get to know your potential customers and leverage any opportunity to speak to them. With start-ups keenly focused on product development, it is sometimes possible to forget that one day those products are going to leave the office and make their way in the real world. Knowing what that real world is and how it’s constantly changing is crucial.
Some start-ups may subconsciously shy away from exploring changes in their market, often for fear of having to make significant changes to their product. I am all too aware how horrifying a prospect that can be, having expended huge amounts of resource in building tech products. But new markets don’t necessarily require the development of completely new features, quite often, a new market will simply mean a different way of engaging customers with your product. In the example of sports technology shifting to a new public oriented community sector, the difference may simply be the way regular club players and newcomers expect to interact with your product. The core functionality stays the same, but we now have to consider it from a different user perspective.
Austerity often leads to technology requirements that serve a wider demographic audience. The delegation and decentralisation of processes is a clear way to reduce core costs for many organisations. Self service comes in all sorts of contexts, whether it be banking or health care, it is becoming ever more popular, and austerity will only quicken its growth. Modern technology can provide innovative solutions in these ever-changing markets. One of the most important success factors for any start-up is that they fit to a market. There’s no point in having a fabulous product if it’s not absolutely right for the market you are targeting. Small shifts can have huge implications for your company, so it’s important to keep talking to your customers and always be ready to adapt accordingly. In times of austerity change happens far quicker, so constant market assessment is an instrumental factor in creating and maintaining a competitive advantage.