Finding the White Space

Below is the ‘Tip of the Week’ from Ep70: Building an Investor Brand, Part 2 (Jay Acunzo & John Gannon)

Jay talked about how VCs are fast followers. They more often than not follow what others have done that is working, rather than create something innovative of their own. It’s a bit counter-intuitive that they are in the innovation space and yet they often employ a me too strategy. People may want to blog like Fred Wilson, Mark Suster or Brad Feld; but those guys already exist.

In today’s interview we talked about building a brand in an original way. Not competing within existing mediums or methods but in entirely new ways. Identifying the whitespace, so to speak. I referenced how when I started recording interviews for my podcast, there were no other Startup Investing focused podcasts. That soon changed when a16z launched their program but fortunately it was a completely different format and approach. Just like w/ the entrepreneurs we invest in, we want them to be creating new markets or fundamentally disrupting the constructs of existing markets.

If you are familiar w/ the book, Blue Ocean Strategy, the authors discuss what they call red oceans and blue oceans. Red oceans are established markets with many competitors, fighting and clawing for every bit of market share. While blue oceans are the whitespace, completely untouched and unknown to large companies. It’s in these areas that one can get fast traction, deliver and extract strong value, and be more customer focused instead of competition focused.

When one finds these blue ocean opportunities and launches something that can not easily be copied, the opportunities can be significant and defensible. And, as Jay mentioned, the first-mover and innovator in these markets is often one step ahead of the competition. Copycat entrepreneurs or investors, that aren’t doing anything original, will always be following the innovators. A great quote from Jerry Garcia that Jay cited is as follows: “Don’t try to be the best of the best. Try to be the only one that does what you do.”