Chicken or Egg?

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What comes first: Minimum Viable Product, Minimum Viable Team or Minimum Viable Business?

The answer is in the mind of the beholder.

For tech-minded lot – it’s all about the product. For most VCs it’s all about the team. For me it’s all about the business.

Of course, an amazing product is important and you can’t build an amazing product without a great team. But if you are in it for the long term – you should always start with a Minimum Viable Business.

No doubt – there are numerous examples of great products being bought by Facebook and Google (or invested in by VCs) without a healthy underlying business model and even greater number of examples of amazing teams being “acquihired”, but these are outliers, not the rule.

The vast majority of NASDAQ, FTSE 500 or DAX companies are amazing businesses that started as Minimum Viable Businesses and grew into scalable corporations.

Focusing just on the product is like focusing just on your vo2max as a marathon runner – of course it’s mightily important, but without an all-rounded cross-training regimen mixed with the right diet, periodization, rest and shorter-distance races in the meantime – you won’t get far.

Focusing just on the team is like buying the best football players in the world at any cost with no regard to the bottom line of the Club. I’m not saying it’s bad for fans, managers and players, but I wouldn’t want to be an investor in any of the clubs following this “business model“.

I strongly believe most successful businesses start as businesses, not as products or teams. There are exceptions, but I hope my readers are all good with math and can see the Brutal Reality wood for the TechCrunch trees and don’t subscribe to the “exceptions” lottery.

At Splento – with all the roller-coaster-like pivots and changes, surprisingly enough, our vision has never changed:

To become the largest visual content creation platform in the world.

Not visual content storage – you have YouTube and Google Photos for that.

Not camera maker – you have Canon, Nikon, Samsung, HTC & Apple for that.

Not stock photography marketplace – you have Getty Images for that.

VISUAL CONTENT CREATION is the key phrase here – we want our technology to enable millions of professional photographers and videographers and billions of amateur photographers and videographers around the world (because everyone with a smartphone is one these days) to create amazing visual content!

From the get-go we realised – you cannot achieve this lofty vision with tech alone.

Building the tech for the sake of tech – won’t get you far. MIT and Imperial College post-grads can afford that. You and I cannot.

You need an ecosystem to test your hypotheses and your tech on and clients and suppliers to roll it out to.

And building an ecosystem without a viable business model – will bankrupt you in no time.

So we decided to achieve our vision by following three very simple steps:

First – by building a Viable Business Model.

Second – by building an Ecosystem.

Third – by building and rolling out Deep Tech.

We’ve built a minimum viable business and a global visual content creation ecosystem that is profitable, has high gross margins, is scalable and most importantly allows us to build amazing technology that people actually NEED.

We talk to thousands of clients and photographers on a regular basis. We know what they pays us for and what they aren’t prepared to pay. We know what matters to them and what doesn’t. We know how to reach them.

No amount of client discovery by MIT PhDs writing AI image editing and Face Recognition algorithms will give you these insights.

We’ve automated all booking processes and operations, marketing and sales, because we know that great tech is quite useless if people don’t know about it. You need a very strong underlying business to promote any amazing tech and to monetize it.

Once you have a visual content production ecosystem in place backed by a viable business model – the world is your Oyster.

Roman Grigoriev
CEO, Splento.com