Startups: Easy to Launch, Hard to be Successful

startupWhat if you create an e-commerce service that is beautiful but no one buys anything?

It was a scenario highlighted by the Toronto Star in a story about Wondereur, which launched an iPad magazine that features photos of art, as well as the ability to make purchases.

Sophie Perceval, one of Wondereur’s co-founders, summed her the problem this way:

“They put something in the basket, click on ‘checkout’, but then something happens that seems to confuse them. There’s been a lot of intent to buy, but we haven’t made any sales yet. So we’re missing something.”

The problem is the “something” could be anything.

It could be the service doesn’t solve a big enough problem, it could be looking at beautiful art and actually buying it are completely different propositions, it could be Wondereur isn’t doing a good job convincing people to pull the trigger purchases, or it could be its marketing efforts are attracting browsers rather than buyers.

For startups, there are a variety of reasons why success doesn’t happen – just as there are many reasons why things work out as planned. For Wondereur, creating a lovely looking service isn’t a good enough value proposition. Yes, the Web is a great way to discover art but is it the way consumers buy art, particularly from an unknown startup?

Wondereur appears to be suffering from a problem experienced by many startups – a failure to find a product/market fit. While it is relatively easy to create an online service, the huge challenge is building something people want to use – a straightforward proposition but difficult to make happen.

Y Combinator’s Paul Graham explains it more simply in his “Do Good” essay: “Make something people want.”

Too many startups build a service because they can, not because they’re wanted or needed. This happens because the gap between ideas and launching a service has shrunk so the barriers to entry are getting lower. While this is great for entrepreneurs, it also creates a landscape with too many services without a vision, mission and, sadly, users.

Who knows, something may click for Wondereur. Maybe someone will make a purchase, tell some friends, and provide Wondereur with the jump-start it needs. Of course, Wondereur’s fortunes could go the other way as it may continue to struggle because there just aren’t enough people interested in buying art online – at least from Wondereur.

About Mark Evans

I'm the principle with ME Consulting, which provides strategic and marketing services to startups and entrepreneurs. This includes strategic and tactics plans, core messaging, brand positioning and content planning and creation.
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  • Olivier Berger

    Hi Mark, I m Olivier one of the cofoudner of Wondereur. Actually, the article in the star is inaccurate: we do have sales.

    I do agree with you that the barrier of entry to build and launch a startup is getting lower and lower but it doesn’t mean that entrepreneur do it without a clear mission and vision nor a clear understanding of the need they are trying to meet.

    In fact, when your business is loaded with the right metrics and a flexible team and technology, launching fast  is the best way to validate or find the product/market fit. It is especially true, when you are launching an innovative offering such as Wondereur.

    Since our launch, less than 3 months ago, we adapted or expanded the product several time. When you start to get a fan base and sales as we do now, then you know you hit on something and you drill further.

    Some might disagree but i belive that the most difficult and important part is to get eye balls to your startup…so that people give it a try and validate or invalidate your assumptions.

    We are boostrapped by design to have our entire energy devoted to this early phase of wondereur. We have the sales now, the fan base, the cash, we have a very talented team. At this stage, we need much more eye balls to get more feedbacks.

    We can discuss this further