I believe that readers of my blog are familiar with the chart below. It is the classical “Crossing the chasm” diagram from Geoffrey A. Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers. This book was published back in 1991 and it is still number two on “Twelve Business Books in One Hour for the Busy CEO” list. The main argument that Geoffrey Moore makes here is that the “early adopters” have no ability to influence “early majority” and it leads to a chasm that is very difficult for startups (or any company with disruptive technology) to cross:
This book was written in the days when startups typically sold to electrical engineers (a.k.a. IT) and Brad Burnham described it well in his recent post:
In the old days, electrical engineers focused on getting computers to work not on getting people to engage with the systems built on top of those computers. The folks that built enterprise software were vaguely aware that their systems had to be accessible to the humans that used them but they had a huge advantage. The people who used them did so as part of their job, they were trained to use them and fired if they could not figure them out.
This is why even Wikipedia uses the following example to describe the end-user:
The end-user or consumer may differ from the person who purchases the product. For instance, a zookeeper, the customer, might purchase elephant food for an end-user: the elephant.
But virtually no startup gets funded today if it sells directly to electrical engineers. Innovation happens in the consumer space anyway and so the assumption is that any disruptive technology (social networks, SaaS, web2.0…) gets adopted first by the end-users and then it is picked up by the IT. But here comes the new chasm: low ability of end-users to influence IT:
This chasm is the new manifestation of the classical “Business-IT” gap but this time is the innovation flow reversed: business leads and IT follows. And this new flow doesn’t make it any easier to cross the new chasm…