It is no secret that I admire Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman and I enjoy his often contrarian blog opinions on all things Silicon Valley. His real estate focused company has managed to initiate a new model and some change in one of the most consumer unfriendly and opaque industries known to modern man. This has taken years of effort both online and offline.
His latest is trend spotting piece as he mentions the rise of the hybrid start-up and says that “Any profitable idea scales”. I find it funny that he would be trying to get people to focus on the offline world using the lessons from and the power of the web. This is not a new idea and I guess that the troops need a rallying cry once in a while but if you look at the innovation throughout 2010 you will see a variety of models that start on the web and influence the offline world.
A few web based examples are
- Milo who tracks physical local inventory on the web
- FitBit loads your fitness & sleep data in a cloud to be tracked and analyzed
- 1 Block Off the Grid – solar estimates based on Google maps and their calculators
- Bank Simple – a web based banking experience (not launched)
2010 had a lot of Research online, Buy Offline (ROBO) companies and the obvious local merchant flash buying but we are increasingly moving toward the web everywhere. I applaud the effort to get more people to think outside of the valley’s usual spheres (social anything and search) but I would suggest that this needs no extra help. Any entrepreneur event that I go to has people working in traditionally taboo industries like smarter healthcare information systems or a mom/pop merchant software solutions to real world problems.
If you are looking at a start-up start with the assumption that your business is going to use computers, data, engineers and probably a mobile phone at some point and then add value by solving a pain point. The power of technology is a tool that should be used to build your business just like a good sales plan or financial strategy. If anything I would like to see more of Glenn’s cheer leading for growing small companies into medium sized ones that fulfill their vision rather than flipping them quickly.