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1.5 The Kingpins of Product Differentiation and Entrepreneurial Innovation Activity

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, and Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple, are excellent models of serial entrepreneurship and the differentiation strategy. Many businesses give lip service to the notion of satisfying customers’ wants. Bezos means it. He is a maker of markets, a veritable doer and inventor. Amazon did not have skills in developing electronic books or selling cloud computing, so Bezos embarked on a mission to develop competencies in electronic books and cloud computing. His goal was to satisfy customer needs for books anywhere and computing anywhere at any time at an attractive low price. Bezos even enlisted a Harvard MBA to craft a business plan for the cloud computing initiative. Here is the essence of the Bezos approach for developing new businesses:

  • The business should be capable of generating significant returns.
  • The business should be able to scale substantially.
  • The business should address an underserved market.
  • The market should be highly differentiated.
  • The opportunity should be in an area where a company is well-positioned to provide a new service.

Steve Jobs was always an experimenter and a doer. Although some of Apple’s products, such as the Newton, the Lisa, and Apple TV, might be considered failures, he bounced back numerous times and introduced dazzlingly exceptional products that have and still are dominating the market. He is a superb example of an experimenter who sometimes failed in the marketplace, but learned from his mistakes and achieved subsequent success. This is the hallmark of the serial entrepreneur.

Our view of innovation does not require an expensive research lab, but it can. It does not demand a large team of physicists, chemists, engineers, and software developers, but it can. It does not need lots of money, even though it helps. Innovation, as always, just demands hard work and constant attention to searching for new ideas and building things, and is often accompanied by failure. Success is the result of a never-ending process of trial and error and being entrepreneurial.