Business Scaling: Validating Your Product At Scale

Business scaling is the process of transformation of a business as the product is validated by wider and wider market segments. Business scaling is about creating traction for a product that fits a small market segment. As the product is validated it becomes critical to build a viable business model. And as the product is offered at wider and wider market segments, it’s important to align product, business model, and organizational design, to enable wider and wider scale.

It all starts with a great product. Yes, but for whom?

“Great companies are built on great products.” ― Elon Musk

If you ask any entrepreneur who has survived long enough in the marketplace, they might all answer the same thing. While they will first focus on survival, they will also balance that with building a great product. There isn’t a better market entry strategy than having an incredible product. Yet, an incredible product for whom?

As we’ve seen so far, it all starts by identifying what’s the segment of the market that we want to tackle first to prove the viability of our product. And scale from there. For instance, when Tesla had to develop its first electric car prototype. Rather than starting by wanting to produce the cheapest electric car for everyone. It did the opposite. It started with a premium sports car, what would be called the Roadster, which targeted sports cars’ aficionados, who looked forward to something very unique.

From there Tesla built upon to develop cheaper models for larger market segments. In this specific case, it wasn’t easy at all to execute this plan. Yet it eventually worked out (after many near-death experiences) as Tesla slowly validated the market.

If Tesla had gone all-in with the grandiose plan of developing an electric car for everyone (which is instead a plan that became feasible only by 2020) this would have led to sure failure, with billions of dollars burned on the way? 

Once the product has been validated. It might happen that the company still hasn’t managed to balance the various pieces of the puzzle to create a sustainable business model. The more innovative (meaning you’re operating in a new, developing market) is your company, the more time it might take before your business model becomes viable. In fact, as Steve Blank highlighted in his Customer Development Manifesto “Startups don’t fail because they lack a product; they fail because they lack customers and a profitable business model.” 

Therefore, the first steps are really toward scaling up the business by tweaking the business model, as the product reaches its initial target market. Once the business model and product are aligned (this isn’t a linear process, and it might require years of trial and error), then the organizational design (or more precisely how you decide to structure your company to keep scaling) becomes extremely important. As Colin Bryar highlighted in his book, ‘Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon’ “as Amazon grew, we realized that despite our best efforts, we were spending too much time coordinating and not enough time building. That’s because, while the growth in employees was linear, the number of their possible lines of communication grew exponentially.” 

Therefore the long-term process looks something like this: 

This means that for various stages of growth of the organization, you will need to focus on more and more aspects. The product will always be at the center. Yet, one thing is to have a product that works for a small segment of a market. Another is to have it work for larger and larger segments.

That won’t only change the product itself, as it scales, but it will also need a rebalance of how business models and organizations are structured. For instance, going back to the Tesla case, as a customer it might sound trivial that the company would finally offer a cheaper version of the electric car. Yet, this is a revolution that requires the company to reinvent everything from product development, design, manufacturing, supply chain, distribution, cost and profit centers, and therefore organizational structure

The FourWeekMBA Business Strategy Toolbox

Tech Business Model Framework

A tech business model is made of four main components: value model (value propositions, missionvision), technological model (R&D management), distribution model (sales and marketing organizational structure), and financial model (revenue modeling, cost structure, profitability and cash generation/management). Those elements coming together can serve as the basis to build a solid tech business model.

Blockchain Business Model Framework

A Blockchain Business Model according to the FourWeekMBA framework is made of four main components: Value Model (Core Philosophy, Core Values and Value Propositions for the key stakeholders), Blockchain Model (Protocol Rules, Network Shape and Applications Layer/Ecosystem), Distribution Model (the key channels amplifying the protocol and its communities), and the Economic Model (the dynamics/incentives through which protocol players make money). Those elements coming together can serve as the basis to build and analyze a solid Blockchain Business Model.

Business Competition

In a business world driven by technology and digitalization, competition is much more fluid, as innovation becomes a bottom-up approach that can come from anywhere. Thus, making it much harder to define the boundaries of existing markets. Therefore, a proper business competition analysis looks at customer, technology, distribution, and financial model overlaps. While at the same time looking at future potential intersections among industries that in the short-term seem unrelated.

Technological Modeling

Technological modeling is a discipline to provide the basis for companies to sustain innovation, thus developing incremental products. While also looking at breakthrough innovative products that can pave the way for long-term success. In a sort of Barbell Strategy, technological modeling suggests having a two-sided approach, on the one hand, to keep sustaining continuous innovation as a core part of the business model. On the other hand, it places bets on future developments that have the potential to break through and take a leap forward.

Transitional Business Models

A transitional business model is used by companies to enter a market (usually a niche) to gain initial traction and prove the idea is sound. The transitional business model helps the company secure the needed capital while having a reality check. It helps shape the long-term vision and a scalable business model.

Minimum Viable Audience

The minimum viable audience (MVA) represents the smallest possible audience that can sustain your business as you get it started from a microniche (the smallest subset of a market). The main aspect of the MVA is to zoom into existing markets to find those people which needs are unmet by existing players.

Business Scaling

Business scaling is the process of transformation of a business as the product is validated by wider and wider market segments. Business scaling is about creating traction for a product that fits a small market segment. As the product is validated it becomes critical to build a viable business model. And as the product is offered at wider and wider market segments, it’s important to align product, business model, and organizational design, to enable wider and wider scale.

Market Expansion

The market expansion consists in providing a product or service to a broader portion of an existing market or perhaps expanding that market. Or yet, market expansions can be about creating a whole new market. At each step, as a result, a company scales together with the market covered.



Growth Matrix

In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode). Or perhaps by tackling whole new problems for new customers (reinvent mode).

Revenue Streams

In the FourWeekMBA Revenue Streams Matrix, revenue streams are classified according to the kind of interactions the business has with its key customers. The first dimension is the “Frequency” of interaction with the key customer. As the second dimension, there is the “Ownership” of the interaction with the key customer.

Revenue Model

Revenue model patterns are a way for companies to monetize their business models. A revenue model pattern is a crucial building block of a business model because it informs how the company will generate short-term financial resources to invest back into the business. Thus, the way a company makes money will also influence its overall business model.

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