Product and company are fundamental layers that any investor or entrepreneur must assess and pay attention to. But a third layer exists, and it may be the most important of all: category.
Category design thinking has been the driving force behind some of the biggest business successes in modern history, whether it’s Apple dominating the tablet and smartphone industry or Chrysler dominating the minivan market.
The premise is relatively simple: if you are entering an established market, all you’re really doing is trying to argue with the category leader. The pioneers who become household names do so by first highlighting the problem the consumer has, before ever offering the solution.
At Connect, we invest in the best product companies. However we know that products are orphans without a category and that’s why we’re such big fans of Category Design. We want to help the founders we back embrace the category thinking so that they can create the space in the market for their product.
We decided to take things a step further, so last month we joined forces with Kevin Maney, Mike Damphousse and Elie Kanaan from Category Design Advisors, who are focused on helping companies identify, define and win new categories. Over the course of a few hours, we gave the audience a brief overview of how to think like a category designer, discussing how startups can incorporate category design thinking early on in their journey. We then wrapped up the event by evaluating and dissecting three selected companies in a live forum.
Three brave participants — Lauren Evans, CMO of Spirable, Dan Garrett, CEO and founder of Farewill and Sammi Adhami, CEO and founder of Fiit — got real time feedback from the CDA team to help them understand what they needed to work on to become category leaders.
Here are some of the pearls of wisdom generated from the discussion: