Launch pads and platforms…

As I work on re-writing my product (a software application) for one of my websites (affectionately known as the supercharger site)… and I embark on the journey of learning yet another tool to build my e-presence, I can’t help but think about Launch pads.

Just a few days ago I bought stock for my mom, and in doing that I looked at the near history of that company’s performance, realized they would post about a 30% growth in profits this year compared to last year (if the trend they’ve set in the last 3 quarters holds true) and that this mega profits announcement will come sometime in Jan of 2010.

Since our stock market is heavily fueled by news and announcements, then buying into the stock now, 2 months before the speculators and 3 months before the announcement seems like a no-brainer deal.

I think it’s easy to pick ‘winners’ based on previous performance… great directors are allowed to pick to work on greater movies, fast horses get access to better training and more interesting competition, great companies attract the best talent and so forth..

However, when you want to look at a smaller company… maybe even a tiny dot on the dot come circle (such as my company) … you have very little good news, past performance, or track time to judge yourself or your position based on.

This can be very frustrating if you’re surrounded by naysayers telling you that you will fail, and that your recent history will be a mould for your future and that more of the same failure is almost sure.

Frustrations aside… there are a few ways to gauge where you are and where you’re going even if you don’t have much to show for it at present.

1- In a cool startup presentation I watched on youtube, one of the presenters made a great point of illustrating demand ‘by proxy’.

For example, let’s say you’re building the first ever TV that allows you to order take out food through your remote control… you turn to the food guide, choose a food channel (restaurant), look at the program guide (food list) and choose something to eat… click ok and confirm and your order will be placed and fulfilled within 45 minutes.

Maybe it’s very difficult to show that such a TV actually has a market or demand for it. However, in illustrating demand by proxy, it is reasonable to do what follows:

Say you have very reliable data that shows that most people that do order take out, order it while they’re in their lounge at home watching TV (reasonable assumption).

Say that even more so, you have the ability to demonstrate that calls to food delivery joints spikes on on the quarter-hour, half-hour, and on-the-hour, for a duration of 5 to 7 minutes (which highly corresponds to typical commercial schedules in most TV shows).

If you can provide data for both of these items then it is a reasonable assumption that ”dinner and a movie” are highly correlated, and that creating a televised / net based solution to ordering delivery through your TV actual has a market.

You have just proved demand by proxy… for something that pretty much has no proven track record.

Since I like this example so much, I’m going to take this one step further… If you can somehow link commercials for Domino’s pizza (and say their monday night football double cheese special) to a certain button combination on the remote (click 53 to order this combo now) … while having the TV and Dominas already integrated with your delivery and payment information… then you could create something that not only has demand, but also has the incentive (ease of use) to shift potential customers off of the old system (look for the phone number, remember my customer ID with dominos, remember my order, try to find cash or change…etc) into a newer, faster, and easier to use system.

Awesome.

Now back on topic…

2- Another way to assess a company that doesn’t have strong past performance data and the main topic of this post, is assessing their ‘platform’.

Let’s look at two great examples…

A- Apple has a great platform in itunes. itunes is not a music sharing program, it’s a content delivery platform. Through itunes you can get books, music, programs, podcasts, radio shows…etc.

Maybe all of these channels were not built into itunes when it first came out, but if you were to assess a then infant itunes, and were able to recognize it as a potentially strong content delivery platform , rather than a music sharing program, you would’ve been in a better position to predict the growth and future potential of apple and itunes.

B- Another great example of a strong platform is Google.

Some one like me, who uses google everything for his business (mail, adsense, adwords, docs, groups, talk, search engine traffic and customers, trends (to scope out new markets), google web toolkit and google app engine …etc) feels a huge amount of debt to google.

Google is not a search engine. Google , I’d like to argue is a small business  ‘empowerment’ and ‘enablement’ platform.

Thank about Google checkout in that context as well, although I don’t use it yet since it’s not available in my location or residence.

When you add in Youtube, Picasa, and blogger to the mix (also owned by Google) you realise how that , for free, Google allows you to get yourself, your company and your product online for little to no startup cost.

Ridiculous. … Genius

So how do I assess TerraFirms ?

Since I started this ‘sabbatical’ I’ve learned the following (which can all be considered TerraFirms competences)

1- Search engine optimization

2- PHP coding and the wordpress platform

3- Flash content

4- Video and image marketing

5- Web2.0 integration into blogs and web 2.0 marketing strategies.

6- SQL databasing

7- Custom applications (Java /MySQL / Google Web Toolkit / Ajax)

8- Internet Marketing market research techniques, and using different market assessment tools.

9- Paid online advertising campaigns, techniques, and optimization.

So let me rephrase that in simple terms.

My current websites suck in terms of overall income generation potential. But, my platform is strong in that I can find a better market, a better idea, a better concept, and re-apply exactly all the same competences to launch a professional site, grab traffic, promote products, create custom applications, manage data and databases, and create both value for my visitors / customers and profit for my company.

Let’s think about that for a second… past performance, modest at best. Future potential, huge.

I know most people don’t want to gamble their hard earned money on ‘potential’ … but if the platform is there, then managing that platform and seeing it to maturity is all it takes to make it big.

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