The final session in a special “Hackathon Week” series that took place earlier this month tackled strategic analysis as it relates to emerging business concepts and new product launches. It featured three hospitality industry veterans: Gregg Rockett, hospitality industry thought leader and award-winning academic instructor; Prakash Shukla, founder at Wayfare Ventures and HFTP Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame inductee; and Seán Worker, managing director and principal at T5 Strategies. Continue reading for key takeaways from the panel; you can also watch the full presentation online.
In the preceding Hackathon presentation, the panel offered up their advice on how startups can give the ultimate “elevator pitch” to help sell their products or business concepts. This session was recapped on HFTP Connect last week and can be read here.
But which comes first: refining your “elevator” pitch, or strategic analysis? You can create a solid business model through sweat equity that can be differentiated from the competitive landscape, that cultivates brand loyalty, and that can be scaled up even before you win any hackathons or win over any investors. So, the answer is clear: strategic analysis comes first.
Anytime you have a startup or a product offering, you should analyze the industry and market dynamics and understand where and how your product fits into those dynamics. Industry analysis is extremely important, just as customer-centric product positioning is important.
Ask yourself three questions: Who is your customer? What are their needs? And, how do we satisfy those needs?
By knowing your target customer, you can begin to understand the value propositions that address their needs. Success behind a product launch comes from building a strategy around your customer. Posit your product as a solution to a problem that has been clearly identified, researched and demonstrated. Your product is the solution to a problem that your identified customer is experiencing, or it is the response to a need they have must be met. And, it should be able to be differentiated from its competitors.
The energy, enthusiasm and passion – paired with a balanced, informed opinion – of the entrepreneur(s) behind the product is something that also generates interest and cultivates loyalty for a particular product or idea. When you do draw investors and stakeholders with your energy and enthusiasm, you also need to establish trust with them and demonstrate traction with your customer base. Show them that you are able to adapt, iterate, pivot and learn – and that you are able to do all of this quickly so that you can scale up your business and inspire confidence in a return on investment.
Just as you communicate and build trust with your stakeholders, you need to also communicate and build trust with your customers. The feedback loop is integral to gaining traction and the success of a product launch.
And have you considered this: what is your plan in the event that your product is a wild success? Have you put thought into its scalability and acceleration, your supply chain, staffing and thought leadership? As you go through this process of people, product, concept and capital all the way to user experience, mapping out its scalability is fundamental to launching a new product. Also, consider the opposite: If it is not well-received but you have great feedback from your customers and investors, are you able to pivot rapidly and make iterations that can then gain traction?
There are other fundamental considerations to be made. One panelist takes incoming business plans and places them into one of two categories: a business model innovation or an existing model that impacts a current customer base. If you have a product that streamlines business or operations in an existing market, you are creating innovation by improving efficiency. On the other hand, model innovation questions the existing models that are already out there, and you open up a whole new industry; an example of this is Airbnb. Does your product create efficiency in an existing market, or is it creating a whole new industry?
These are all considerations that should be made as you move through the process of launching a product. Define the problem you wish to solve; identify your customer and their needs; understand the fundamentals of your product; research the industry and market, and how your product fits; differentiate from its competitors; generate capital investments; test, test, test; pivot if you need to; and also, be prepared for your product to become a huge success.
For inspiration, meet the students behind the winning hacks of the first-ever Hilton College Hospitality Hackathon. The competition, created by The University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management and held in partnership with HFTP, asked participants to tackle COVID-19 head-on and address the challenges it has posed to all sectors of the hospitality, travel and tourism industry, and to develop solutions to move it forward.
In this video, the undergraduate student groups from the top three hacks discuss their entries. The students represented the schools: EHL, George Brown College and Cornell University (first place); New York University (second place); and University of North Carolina.
While in this video, the top three hacks from the graduate finalists discuss their entries. The students represented the schools: IULM University (first place); De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (second place); and Les Roches International School of Hotel Management (third place).