People often say building a successful startup is all about execution. Well, there is no execution without focus, because you simply can't do everything on a startup budget.
At the same time, you can't have a startup with small ambitions; you need to have big dreams and a big vision.
So you are left trying to boil the ocean with a small 1-litre kettle.
This is why we created our Venture Roadmap Framework. This framework allows startup founders to outline their Vision and then define the three major steps to get there. We call this defining your NOW, NEXT & FUTURE, and if you are a startup founder, this can help you achieve focus, preserve runway but still deliver on a big vision.
Let's see the NNF in action with a company we all know, and maybe the document that gave birth to our concept.
A great example of NNF is Tesla's "The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan" written and shared to the world by Tesla's CEO Elon Musk.
In that document, Elon showcases his Now, Next & Future roadmap. Elon explains how he used his first product, the very expensive Roadster as a way to bankroll the R&D and asset investment needed to create a performing yet affordable family car that will take on any petrol or diesel car in performance and range.
He starts the Tesla story focusing on a high ticket product for a handful of people. He takes one problem at a time, develops the technology and implementing it on a small number (relatively of course) of units that can be sold for a big-ticket price.
On the back of the Roadster's success, he then focuses his attention on scale and affordability, making investments in bigger plants that can maximise throughput and reduce cost.
This will allow him to get to market with a family car that can go head to head with any fossil fuel model. This car will combine affordability, performance and sustainability to deliver a product that will sunset the fossil fuel car, ultimately delivering his Vision of the future.
Let's take a look at the NNF
Now: A sports car company creating high ticket items for a handful of clients willing to pay to have the first electric supercar.
Next: A car company building high-performance long-range electric vehicles for the conscious consumer willing to pay extra for performance and sustainability.
Future: A car company building affordable family cars that outperform fossil fuel cars in range and performance.
The question remains if you are a startup founder, do you have a master plan?
What is your Roadster?
What is the solution for the "Now" that will allow you to deliver your Vision?
A way to get to the answer is to use the following technique. I will be using the Tesla example, so you get the idea and can follow along:
1) Define your Vision of the future: To do this, I would recommend using Jobs To Be Done to understand your customer and what they are trying to achieve. Then combine this concept with what your startup aspires to achieve at a macro level. This is key to building a genuinely aspirational vision that is product and platform agnostic. You can read more about this here.
Tesla: Sunset the fossil fuel car to expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy.
2) With a clear vision, ask yourself: what is needed to deliver on that Vision? To do that I would recommend using the Four Fits framework, where you can explore the market segment, product, channel and model that can help you to achieve that. Read about the Four Fit model here.
Tesla: An affordable electric family car that rivals fossil fuel cars in performance and range and can be produced at scale.
3) Ok, now that we know what we need to deliver the Vision of the future let's take a look at the challenges to get there. List all of the major challenges you see today, which must be overcome to be able to deliver the statement you prepared above. I would recommend going back again to your Four Fit model to ask yourself what aspects or features of your solution are particularly hard to deliver.
Tesla: When it comes to Tesla, there are clearly three major challenges to achieve "An affordable electric family car that rivals fossil fuel cars in performance and range and can be produced at scale." In this case, they were are all product-related, i.e. a) The technology was not there. Electric cars had not the performance nor the range of their fossil fuel counterparts, b) Even if you could advance the technology to match the performance and range this car would be expensive (particularly the battery), and c) Finally, the sheer scale of mass production would be a major challenge too. You need to produce electric cars at scale – something never done by any manufacturer before.
So the challenges are:
a) Advance the technology to make it comparable in performance and range to the fossil fuel car
b) Make that technology affordable
c) Build electric cars at scale
4) Study ways in which you can create focus by concentrating on one thing at a time. Then put the challenges into sequential order and weigh the options – which one should come first?
Tesla: in this case, it is clear that the way forward is: R&D for performance -> R&D for range -> Increase affordability -> produce at scale
5) For each stage or challenge, define a different venture that will allow you to overcome the challenge and the metamorphosis to the next.
Now: A sports car company creating high ticket items for a handful of clients willing to pay to have the first electric supercar. (no need for affordability or scale)
Next: A car company building high-performance long-range electric vehicles for the conscious consumer willing to pay extra for performance and sustainability. (no need for scale)
Future: A car company building affordable family cars that outperform fossil fuel cars in range and performance. (All in)
Each company is different, and the success of each of them enables the next one to exist.
This is how building an electric supercar for the rich allowed Elon to develop a business that is now more valuable than any other car manufacturer in the world.
One of the reasons Tesla is worth what it is without making a penny in profit is because it has a plan to unlock exponential value, and year after year they deliver on their promise, getting one step closer to their Vision of the future.
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