A few months ago, we explored the realm of obvious insights, not easily seen. These insights contain valuable, life-changing knowledge only available to people who are looking and have the domain experience necessary to obtain it. Coincidentally, after listening to Patrick O’Shaughnessy’s interview with Chris Paik, the concept of “earned insights” emerged. His two-word, cogent explanation of what it takes to start something deeply resonated.
What is an insight and how does one earn it? An insight is an obvious truth that the majority of the world has not seen yet. It is the Figs founder, Trina Spear, wondering why do scrubs have to look and feel a certain way? It is Michael Williamson, Clint Jarvis, and Erwin Macatulad evolving on the insight that another new 200 acre golf course will likely never be built within a major NFL city. Enter Intown Golf Club. Other recent examples include the AdPipe founders who, for a decade built high-end, commercial quality videos for corporations across the country, to uncover content is rewatched only 3% of the time leaving an untapped gold mine of proprietary and magnificent digital assets fertile for repurposing, repacking, and reusing. It is the Bottle founders evolving their solution so local businesses can easily generate subscription revenue. All of these companies have one commonality: earned insights.
The perennial debate of ideas over strategy over execution percolate on Twitter often. The reality is you have to start somewhere and the combination of idea and market matter on day one. However, executing while keeping a pulse and feeling for where the market goes is where innovation sparks.
How does one generate an earned insight? The simple answer is to start. Some people start with the belief that what they are building is the answer. In my experience, only the most seasoned entrepreneurs who have likely built something before – ideally in a tangential market – nail that method. The team at KMS Technologies is a good study. Others approach the start line of the entrepreneurial marathon knowing that the idea and product will shift so they plan for it. An example is Nat Turner executing his customer discovery with a pitch deck and refining it several times before a line of code is written. Others, and this happens more often than not, start with a full sprint only to find out that there is another lane of the track they should be running on – but it takes actually running to identify the need to transition. Identifying that need is where the insight is earned.
Insights are earned through two ways. First, starting and evolving. Second, sheer brilliance and expertise of analyzing markets. Insights are plural as well. One may lead down a path only to find the market isn’t that large or the unit economics are not worth the effort or it may lead to a wide open, blue ocean of market opportunity. In either path the work will lead to the velocity of insights uncovered as more running occurs. These esoteric insights can’t be bought, they can’t be outsourced, and they can’t be given to you. It takes a significant amount of thought, curiosity, and conversations to earn them amongst customers and team members. Instead of an “aha” moment, there’s a trail of “aha” insights. Those lead to authentic demand and product-market fit – other mountains needed to traverse to the exhilarating entrepreneurial summit!