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We just launched a new version of our website, and you’re on it now. I’m proud of it; it’s an important step forward for us.
There are two primary reasons to publish a new version.
1. We need more specific messaging to address market growth.
One of our marketing challenges is to effectively walk the line between being an investment firm and a services firm. It’s not the simplest message to take to market. Andrew Chen recently blogged about this and said:
“The reason why it’s useful to target big markets is that there’s pre-built demand for your product category. This makes growth and customer acquisition much, much easier. When customers understand your product category, then your job can be to define why it wins versus the competition, rather than educating your customers on why need it in the first place. The negative is that you have a bunch of direct competition and an already established axis for how people will evaluate your product’s desirability.”
I don’t have concerns about our market size or the existence of demand. However, Andrew nailed it. Our job is to convince our customers why our approach wins versus the competition. And, we do have direct competition and an already “established axis” to compete against. Traditional investment firms tend to say we do not count and design agencies and technical shops provide niche offerings that can be simpler to consume, on the surface. This marketing dynamic is challenging enough in our hometown market of Austin and our primary remote markets, “the right coast and left coast.” However, as we’ve expanded into new markets such as Pittsburgh, it’s become even more challenging.
Pittsburgh is very important to us. There’s a wonderful talent base, and three of the four partners in Thinktiv are graduates of Carnegie Mellon. In fact, Paul Burke is one of the co-founders of the company, a transplant who chose Pittsburgh as his home and relocated from Austin to Pittsburgh to start our offices there.
We’ve discovered a vibrant startup technology ecosystem in Pittsburgh. We’ve also observed that its full potential is suppressed by a lack of supportive capital and business acceleration alternatives. That’s not to say there are no quality resources available in the city. There are a few great ones, such as Innovation Works. However, there aren’t enough and many of the ones that exist do not move at appropriate speed or with the required level of innovative thinking. The signal entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh receive from the capital/startup community is a very different signal than we see in other geographies. We know this is true because we talk to Pittsburgh entrepreneurs and capital firms every day. This means there is a very different “axis” in Pittsburgh that our investment approach and services are evaluated against. Prior to our messaging overhaul and new site, our marketing function didn’t perform particularly well for these conditions.
Our new website is more specific around the services (talent and financial) we provide. It highlights why they’re important and how they can create massive differentiation for entrepreneurs and value inside of an investment firm’s portfolio. Our goal with this new messaging is to make it easier to acquire new customers and portfolio companies for Thinktiv in Pittsburgh and to advance our pursuit of developing startup communities and deal flow in other geographies.
2. It’s time to publish our Playbook.
It’s taken us years to develop our Playbook. I’ve written before about our destruction of processes that are traditionally silo’d and what we’re doing to recreate them. The reason we did that is because we’re maniacally focused on the business cases that sit above all innovation opportunities. We’ve got hundreds of customers under our belt. If you look hard enough and apply the appropriate lens of simplicity on a data set that large, you can start to pattern match. That’s what we’ve done with our Playbook. It’s only five plays. Each one has a different set of inputs, methodologies and outputs. They are important to us and we believe they’re important to the market. We believe it’s critical to focus on what a business can become and not what progress it’s made to date. This is what our Playbook helps us do, focus on what a business can become and then apply appropriate assets to get it there. In some cases, this means talent, lots of high-end talent. In other cases it means providing financial capital through simple, transparent processes. In many cases, it means a mix of the two, and this is where we’ve always tried to differentiate.
I think our new messaging approach will help people better understand Thinktiv and that is an important of the next wave of our growth!