When it comes to startups, you must get comfortable with the F word: failure. It’s said that nine out of ten startups fail. With the slim success rate, many founders found themselves writing failure post-mortems, where they reflect upon the choices and reasons in their journey that led them to the startup’s dead end. CB Insights gathered 311 of these post-mortems and analyzed them to find the top reasons why startups fail. Coming out on top that has 42% of the startups of 311 startup sample identity as one of their pitfalls is the lack of market need.
One of the startups under the Launchgarage portfolio found itself in a similar situation but was able to pivot and find the right market fit. I recently had a chance to chat with Albert Mercado, the founder of GORUN.PH, who shared how his startup was able to break through the market ceiling in a niche market and successfully expanded into other territories whilst being revenue-focused.
Mercado founded GORUN.PH with a mission to make “a marathon on a national scale.” The startup started out as a virtual race event that allows runners to finish a race or challenge within a certain period of time. Runners can accomplish this anytime and anywhere with entitlements waiting for them at the end. All the runner needs is a GPS-tracking running app and a GORUN.PH account and they’re ready to go.
On the first impression, you may think of GORUN.PH as a direct competitor or replacement to traditional endurance events. Mercado, however, sees the startup as more of a complementary activity and training platform for endurance athletes who will treat GORUN.PH’s content and merchandise as a part of their lifestyle. From this positioning, the startup is able to build a longer and higher customer lifetime value as compared to one-off traditional events.
A Different Track
Last 2018, GORUN.PH saw tremendous growth and increased its operations headcount as they grew. However, being in a niche market, they soon hit the market ceiling and found themselves spending too much in a market where their revenue wasn’t growing. Much of their cost was poured into the overhead expenses with their manpower taking up a majority of their resources. At this point, Mercado saw an opportunity to break out of the market ceiling and expand to other countries through licensing their software and backend operations support. They’re shifting to white-labeling instead of scaling their operations and deploying resources overseas.
Although GORUN.PH was able to successfully rise above the market ceiling, they’re giving up the foothold they’ve earned in their market position in return. On this drawback, Mercado says that GORUN.PH was built on a revenue-focused mindset since the beginning and that their margins still remain the same by being an operator instead of scaling their manpower. In foresight, they’ve gone to partnering up with local sports brands overseas who plan to use their platform to engage their customer base whilst still holding control over the IP and supply chain.
“Our primary solution with the lack of funding was to license/franchise our tech elsewhere. In hindsight, it was a good decision since we would end up with the same net margins anyway, and we have fewer management headaches to deal with.”
-Albert Mercado, Founder, GORUN.PH
The Road Ahead
In the coming years, GORUN.PH is staying core to its vision to become the top training companion for athletes competing in official events such as the Iron Man. They plan to take full advantage of all the facets in their operation, making good use of the data they’ve collected to officiate data analytics for sporting events and to set benchmarks for future events. Mercado also mentioned plans to have GORUN.PH further support and complement endurance athletes and traditional running events. He lined out that partnerships with road races are under the works to have athletes finish one of GORUN.PH races in order to qualify in a race.
“Staying true to our mission, when we first started our virtual race concept, we wanted to make “a marathon on a national scale” and now we’re on track to do events that will happen in real-time, on an international scale.”
-Albert Mercado, Founder, GORUN.PH
GORUN.PH’s pivot serves a valuable lesson of to all startup founders. Their readiness to confront problems and quickly adapt to find the right market fit largely shaped their success today. They exemplified that startups can change models without sacrificing their original mission and vision. We think they’ve taken a step in the right direction with their pivot and have definitely raised the standard in the industry to another level.
GORUN.PH is one of the 35 startups under Launchgarage, the premier startup accelerator in the Philippines. To join the fast-growing virtual running community in the Philippines, visit GORUN.PH’s website and sign up for an account and start running.