Melissa Waggener Zorkin: So You Want To Start A Business…

Our new “connected Generation” prefers companies and brands they feel are committed to making a difference. So what does this mean for today’s startups?

Waggener Edstrom has provided PSFK with generous support throughout 2012 and is the Official Agency Partner of the PSFK Conference Series. 

Last month for PSFK London, I outlined some research Waggener Edstrom Worldwide conducted that looked at Generation Connected (Gen C) and the importance it places on innovation.

One of the core findings was that Gen C views innovation as critical‚ not just because the latest product, service or gadget is fun and cool (although that is most often where these customers start) but increasingly because of those innovations‚ importance in helping make real social impact.

The research also suggested Gen C-ers prefer companies and brands that they feel are equally as committed to making a difference as they are.

So today, I would like to look at the other side of the coin‚ what these insights might mean to a startup that hopes to succeed with customers who increasingly value the impact as well as the innovation.

In the “dot-bomb‚” era, it seemed startup success was initially judged solely on landing venture capitalist funding. Achieving that meant coming up with an idea and networking exhaustively to tell everyone why your invention was better, faster and cooler than anyone else’s widget. Eventually, if your idea was strong enough and differentiated from others in features and benefits, you secured funding and brought it to market.

That just does not fly today. Today, if you have a fresh new idea, your future customers (and investors) want to know not just what it is, but, more importantly, why they should care. They have a huge amount of choice, and differentiation is more important than ever. What will they be able to do with it and how can they take your innovation and turn it into something that can help the community. In other words, you need to sell them on the social impact and not just the specifications.

How does this look? Well, Twitter would have been more than a microblogging site. Instead, it could have been introduced as a platform for building communities to coalesce around shared problems, find new solutions and even topple regimes. Facebook could have been about more than posting pictures of the Internet meme de jour, but rather a community where like-minded people become closer to brands, causes and people to make their individual voice heard.

LinkedIn, I think, has done this right by focusing on building a community from the start. The mobile industry is absolutely on this path when talking about mobile payments, creating entrepreneurial opportunities and empowering individuals in all corners of the world.

Technology is a great enabler of societal change. So when you start your business, tell your story with a focus on impact‚ the innovation is just the tool that brings impact to life.

Article contributed by Melissa Waggener Zorkin, CEO, President & Founder of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide.

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