Beware the Startup Swarm

Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash

We’re in the middle of a battleground. A global landscape of products and services all fighting for supremacy.

A mixture of the giant behemoths that have traditionally dominated an industry sector and an ever-growing collection of younger fast-moving independent factions that will often club together in an attempt the takedown or cripple of one of the giants.


How did we get here?

The fact of the matter is that technology has moved fast, and older industry leaders often don’t adapt or innovate enough to unlock the full potential that these new technologies offer. Younger, smaller companies have been born during this time of evolution and transition and, as a result, are not shackled to old technologies or aging business methodologies. They jump in with a fresh viewpoint and a clean slate.

No more than 10 or 20 years ago the world was a very different place when it comes to the design and development of products and services. Back then, the response to a need or a perceived gap in a market was all-encompassing. Companies started off as the first to tackle a problem or a cater to an industry sector and, if it took hold, they would own that market and build themselves into a giant service with a giant (unbeatable?) workforce behind their offering. This came with great success and power that was seized at a very opportune time. However, with the ship now built and moving, the focus has shifted to managing and maintaining the offering to keep the ship afloat. With vast amounts of investment put into the initial development of these massive platforms, there’s strong resistance to ditch what was built in order to rebuild from a fresh perspective. Organizations simply keep plugging holes in an attempt to retain as much of their existing business as possible.

However, the foundation of products and services has changed. Cloud services, integrations, libraries, open API’s, and a wealth of new technologies make the conception, creation, and deployment of new products far faster.

This speed plays directly into the hands of the small fresh startups of the world. They can now churn out products and new thinking at breakneck speed. And they can use that speed to do undertake more rapid-fire building, testing, and evolving. This also gives them far more room to fail and learn, a crucial part of truly innovating in the product space.

These small startups no longer focusing on disrupting an entire industry, or at least not at first. Their approach is to bite off a small piece and do it exquisitely. A small focused team tackling one isolated piece of a puzzle can focus on the problem far better. There are no legacy systems to work with, or within. Integrations can come as an afterthought with demand. And, as a smaller independent entity, the politics of large organizations is non-existent.


How does a large organization defend itself?

There is no cookie cutter answer to this problem as every industry is different, and every organization has a different personality and makeup. However, there are some general observations that often play a part in stifling progress.

Change your organization's mindset.

Easier said than done. You’ve built a huge team and attracted the best of the best. Along with that comes hierarchy and structure in order for you to keep tabs on who lives where within your organization. Along with THAT comes territorial behavior and the relationships between coworkers become less and less collaborative. Finger pointing is prevalent, and in order to defend their own existence the cry of “That’s not in my job description!” becomes a chorus heard daily.

Small nimble collaborative teams that live in the startup domain do not have this dynamic to manage. Sure, everyone has their role, but they know and acknowledge a common goal and do whatever they can to get there, as a team. This mindset of group success must be company-wide. The positive collaboration and support that goes along with it must exist as well. People need to own their role but step beyond it…regularly.

Adapt and move faster

Many organizations have already shifted the way they talk about themselves by creating “product teams” around pieces of their offering. This gives an impression of autonomy and independence. However, if your product is still being offered to your customers as part of an all-encompassing solution, then the bonds are likely to still exist. A change made by one team may have many implications on many other parts of your offering and suddenly everyone is still scrambling to keep the big ship moving.

The key is to break down your ship. In this day and age, it is far more effective to build a whole flotilla of fast-moving speed boats that are all traveling along the same route, than to attempt to navigate a massive ship through winding canyons and tight canals. Give them independence and ownership to keep their small ship moving fast on its own. Let them identify who they travel best with as these collaborations will be the ones that bare the richest fruit.

Unshackle innovation.

With the focus on the maintenance of a product or service, a workforce has been built to handle and manage what exists. This has very defined boundaries that need certain skills and knowledge on the bench to keep it ticking over. Innovation is a step outside of those boundaries and into the unknown, with no guaranteed outcome. It is, however, a necessary step to take to fend off the small startups that are innovating in your space every single day. You have to adapt or augment your existing workforce to be able to take bold steps with less fear of the impact and implications of failure. Failure is, after all, a positive learning experience.


How can we help?

At Finlabs, we’ve built a team of seasoned industry veterans, along with exciting young explorers, from the world of product design and development. Our goal is to bring the knowledge and skills we have amassed to larger organizations to help them effectively adapt to this modern age of product development. We want to partner with them to set themselves up to effectively defend and protect their riches from the hordes of startups looking to eat into their kingdom.

We’ve structured ourselves to connect and plug into organizations in a variety of ways to answer a variety of needs.

Do you want to identify potential change or opportunity?

As an outside group, we can come into an organization to help wrangle any need or ask, broad or focused. We can come in with a fresh perspective and untainted outlook, with no historical knowledge to kill ideas and thinking before they are even explored. Through workshops, we can tease out the nuances of organizations or product offerings to identify dots that maybe haven’t been connected, or unearth new exciting dots to bring to the party. From this, we can offer up advice and roadmaps on everything from efficiency building organizational changes, to evolutions of existing products, to the conception of new product or service ideas, all with a focus on business goals and success.

Do you want to race to the finish line?

Product ideas are great if they can be acted upon fast. Building an MVP to prove market fit and demand is key, and it’s often important to get there as fast as possible. We can operate independently outside of an existing organization, or integrate with internal teams to augment and supercharge their skills on short notice. This allows companies to get to a point where your product ideas can be validated and tested quicker and more cost-effectively. With our fluid design and development process, we also aim to build the MVP that can be released to the world immediately. We don’t like to think of MVP’s as “Minimal”, but more so as “Marketable”.

Do you want to set yourself up for long term success?

Long term relationships are where we can build product vehicles that constantly evolve as the technology landscape shifts. We can be engaged on an ongoing basis to help constantly identify opportunities offered through technology to keep your organization on the same playing field as the startups you are competing with, if not on a higher one. We can undertake product development at a comparatively fast pace and help steer and manage your product offerings to make sure you are as competitive as you can be while staying on track with your business goals and objectives.


We’re growing fast and eager to sink our teeth into juicy problems while forming long-lasting collaborative relationships. If you’re interested in exploring how Finlabs can help you and become part of your organizational family, give us a shout. We love new adventures with new friends.


About the Author:

Dave Papworth is Finlabs Creative Cultivator and Product Leader. His career so far has taken him through multimedia, development, design, innovation and ultimately Finlabs.

While working in the advertising industry he led teams focused on technical innovation and how it can be leveraged for marketing campaigns and brand building platforms, creating forward-thinking projects that have been showcased at events like Googles Sandbox, and even recognized in Time Magazine as an “Invention of the Year”.

At Finlabs his focus is on building the team that can tackle any challenge, look beyond their boundaries, and to grow the collaborative relationships we desire with our clients.