What I learned from a popsicle maker

By Ray DePaul

A while ago I had the pleasure of attending one of ATB Boostr's pitch events. A couple of our students and alumni were pitching their companies for crowdfunding support from the crowd of 300. One of the participants that I didn't know was Jordan from Tropic Pops. They make gluten-free, dairy-free, fruit-based popsicles. Jordan was asked the inevitable question by one of the judges - should you be going beyond popsicles? Jordan's unrehearsed answer floored me.

"I believe you have to find your niche, love your niche, and perfect your niche."

The popsicle-man understood what many startups never figure out. You can't start by delivering a little bit of value to a massive market. You need to start by delivering a massive amount of value to a smaller market - your niche. You don't get to start out as Google or Facebook. Recall that "The Facebook" started out serving just university students. You have to start out by nailing your equivalent of the "healthy popsicle" market. Once you have perfected that niche, by all means, you can expand into new markets where you can continue to offer massive value to more and more customers.

To be clear, I'm not saying that you shouldn't identify big markets from the beginning. Knowing where you can expand to gives you the confidence to jump in with both feet. But don't get blinded by the possibility of a billion users and forget that you will acquire them a handful at a time. Don't view a billion users as a single massive market, but rather as thousands of niche markets.

I've since had several conversations with Jordan the popsicle maker, and I always walk away with another tidbit of wisdom. It must be his healthy diet.