Archive for the Tag 'Opportunity'

How to Spot an Opportunity

Point: How do you spot an opportunity? Notice an anomaly and investigate it.

Story: Ted Nierenberg launches Dansk International Designs

In the mid-1950s, Ted Nierenberg attended an industrial fair in Germany. While at the fair, he noticed many booths displaying stainless steel flatware. This surprised Ted, because at that time in the US, stainless steel tableware only appeared in mess halls and school cafeterias, not homes or restaurants. Ted investigated: Why wasn’t stainless steel flatware more prevalent in the US? Answer: because it wasn’t very attractive. So Ted had an idea: could the flatware be made attractive yet remain inexpensive? He decided to investigate. First, he visited factories in Germany, checking equipment and costs. Then, he visited designers in Scandinavia to see if they were making anything that would appeal to American tastes. That was the genesis of the new business idea, producing what as considered paradoxical at the time: “elegant stainless steel.”


In your daily experiences — and especially when attending special events like trade shows — look for patterns and anomalies. Do you see something that surprises you? Ask yourself why it surprises you. Chances are that it’s something new to you — and thus likely new to others as well. Investigate the surprise. Could you take part of it and apply it to a new product or service idea? Be particularly alert for paradoxes. Great opportunities exist in paradoxes because people consider paradoxes unresolveable.

5 Comments »How-to, Opportunity

Entrepreneurial Energy (interviews with entrepreneurs)

“Entrepreneurism is not for the faint of heart,” said Roy Dimoff, Chairman and CEO of Viawest. Entrepreneurism requires seeing opportunity and having fortitude.

Point: Be Passionate, Positive and Practical

By their nature, entrepreneurs are passionate and positive. “Being negative about the future isn’t an entrepreneurial trait,” Dimoff said. “You have to think positive and see opportunities. A sense of humor helps, too.”

At the same time, however, Dimoff said that it’s important to contain the enthusiasm with practicalness. Many companies get in trouble because they “overextend their supply line.” For example, an optimistic entrepreneur may go on a buying spree, acquiring competitors or adjacent companies in a rush to expand, but not taking time to integrate the new companies into the fold.

Point: Do 1-2 Things Well

What opportunities does Dimoff see for small companies today? He sees many companies with good markets that aren’t being managed properly — and that spells big opportunity for small companies. “As a small company, you can do 1-2 things incredibly better than bigger companies,” Dimoff said. For example, Dimoff’s first company, Teleconferencing Systems Canada, competed with big guns like Bell Canada. “Bell Canada did a thousand things poorly. We did one thing — conferencing — well. We could deliver nuances that customers needed. People will pay a premium for that.”

Action: Pick a niche and develop solutions for that niche market.

Point: Clever Funding Ideas

If your company will be distributing a product, invite the manufacturer to fund your business — you’ll be helping them grow by distributing their product. That’s how Dimoff launched his first business.

Today, Dimoff’s Viawest follows that strategy in reverse: Viawest offers a deal to promising startups, giving them five months of free time to ramp up to application. In essence, Viawest bets that the companies will succeed and that they’ll become bigger customers. Viawest’s deal helps the young companies’ cashflow and earns their loyalty.

1 Comment »Capital, Entrepreneurs, Opportunity

« Prev