Evolutionary or Revolutionary?

A lot of the startup scene is about creating the Next Big Thing. Ever since the idea of the Blue Ocean Strategy broke through, startup entrepreneurs have been looking into creating the next big market disruptors or in identifying new demand where none existed before.

The problem with the Blue Ocean Strategy is that most blue oceans are blue for a reason: nobody’s interested, period. While entering a competitive market may be more difficult than creating one of your own, it does have one thing going for it: a competitive market is a proof of the fact that people are interested in the kind of product or service you’re building. So maybe a red ocean is not so bad after all?

Of course, going into a market with lots of established players with big pockets is not going to be very easy. There are, however, many crowded markets where nobody has been able to properly satisfy the actual demand.

Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter, elaborated this well some time ago when he pointed out that while Twitter was a breakthrough service, it was effectively created as an evolutionary step on the already very lively micromessaging market.

But where the competition failed, and where Twitter succeeded, was getting the mix of features just right to meet the demand that was already there, validated by the existing competition.

So maybe instead of looking at blue oceans – markets that have no providers yet – we should go after purple oceans. Maybe we should look at the markets out there that are competitive but not yet cracked. Like office software, speech recognition or home entertainment systems. The real red oceans are things like smartphones and gasoline driven cars, where the demand is real and the supply more than adequately answers that demand.

The purple oceans are the markets where the demand is real, but nobody has yet figured out how to properly answer it.

Perhaps the biggest breakthroughs are not, after all, revolutionary, but evolutionary.