Go beyond the initial idea to discover the core of your startup
“I think Facebook is an online directory for colleges and I mean it’s kinda interactive. If I want to look you up, I just go to The Facebook and type in your name, it brings me up like hopefully all the information I’d care to know about you.”
While sipping beer from a red plastic cup, Mark Zuckerberg narrated the above vision in this casual interview from a few years ago. He continued, “I want to create a really cool college directory product that just like is very relevant for students and like has a lot of like information that people care about when they are in college.”
If you filter the “likes” out of the quote, you can assume that he had little idea what Facebook would become. The company’s mission to make the world more open and connected came in much later. The thought of creating an immersive virtual reality environment would have been too far-fetched to imagine (Facebook acquired Oculus for its virtual reality technology two years ago).
Finding the ultimate purpose of your startup is never a one way street. You start with your desire to make an impact in a market that also changes you in turn. Nokia started as a pulp mill and is today a company that focuses on telecommunications infrastructure after selling its mobile division to Microsoft.
Thomas Edison started the Edison Lamp Company to manufacture lamps that eventually amalgamated into General Electric (GE), which operates in various sectors from power to aviation to healthcare a hundred years later. Amazon.com that started as an online bookstore sells cloud computing services apart from being the world’s largest retailer. It would have been unlikely for Jeff Bezos to see an opportunity to share his company’s technology infrastructure with other companies over the internet.
Focus and expand
Entrepreneurs rigidly get stuck with their idea and do not allow it to simmer in a changing environment. Cofounders squabble amongst themselves on whose idea it originally was. The market is not bothered about your idea or its ownership – what it does care about is its usefulness after flawless execution. Going beyond the initial idea allows your startup to bloom through a series of meaningful ideas that you discover along the way.
While we must have known all along, it took our company a longtime to recognize what our core was. We started with processing insurance claims for US-based medical facilities. After understanding the industry better, our work evolved to handle greater complexity from defending audits on behalf of clients to writing compliance automation algorithms.
Listening to our market helped us transform ourselves into a healthcare technology firm by developing cloud/mobile health record software from ground-up. Most of what we do today is something I had limited or no knowledge of when we started.
However, when we connect the dots I realize that our intention has been the same all along. Simplifying healthcare delivery was the reason that we got started and this purpose continues to be the driver for our decisions today. Whether they are large companies or solo medical practices, clients who love working with us do so because we simplify things for them. People who enjoy working in our environment are those who reflect these values themselves.
Did our core find us or did we know it all along? Discovering the core is more an act of subtraction than addition. When you stop compromising, you naturally evolve to reflect your inner core. The external environment constantly pushes you to either succumb to circumstances or stick up to who you are. It’s your ability to respond to such challenges smartly without losing yourself that helps you discover the core of your organization.