I think there are three kinds of startups: market creators, market disruptors and market enablers. Each time a startup comes in to pitch, I try to bucket the startup into one of these categories, because it frames the challenges the business will face.
Market creators are companies that bring novel technologies or processes to market. Companies in our portfolio that fit this bill are BlueKai which built the first exchange for user data to inform ad targeting. PlasticJungle has built the first and largest online gift card exchange. The Receivables Exchange developed the first online real time exchange for trading of SMB receivables.
Market disruptors shift power to a different decision maker or different component in the value chain. Expensify allows end users, instead of IT, to choose which expense management system to use to track and file expense reports. ThredUp is building the world’s largest online consignment store by aggregating supply directly from consumers. HomeAway aggregated huge amounts of vacation homes for rent and allowed consumers to find an alternative to hotels.
Market enablers combine elements of existing technologies and platforms to create new value. Branchout leverages Facebook for referral recruitment. 2Tor combines the latest learning technologies to enable universities to migrate graduate degree programs online. DataMeer combines the power of Hadoop with the ease of use of Excel to provide business analysts with easy, scalable analysis tools.
Over the next few days, I’ll talk about each in turn – the kinds of questions I might ask, the kinds of challenges these companies might face and the implications for go to market.