Fear creates markets. Need creates markets but what does the innovator do while waiting for their market?

One of my biggest fears after living on the East Coast for the past 3 years is a power outage. In Indiana we had quite a few but they were seldom long than four hours or so. Here in Maryland we’ve had five outages that lasted more than a day. Plus, with a hurricane rolling through its hard to get things fixed quickly.

The previous owner of our home had wired everything for a home generator. So we do have a backup system. It will kick on automatically if the power stops coming from the street. In addition to that we’ve recently added solar power to the house thanks to Solar City. I am a little concerned with the 35000 upfront cost of a solar system so we have a leased system instead. Les upfront cost and the option to buy it in five years. Who knows where we will be in five years. We may be empty nesters by then (fingers crossed)!!!

I am talking about this for a different reason, its from a perspective of what drives us. Fear is the one constant that will always drive you to do things. Fear of power outages makes me have a backup system. The same is true of computers.

Every computer in our house except for the kids computers is backed up. I do have the kids copy their pictures to the backed up network drive and all school work as well so the loss of one PC is only having to reinstall the software.

Yes I did have a disaster that forced me to spend about two weeks recovering files from a variety of sources. Since then I have backed up everything. As much for the fear of that horrible event happening again.

Fear drives change. Where innovators may languish for years attempting to make a change fear can make that same change in a very short time period. Of course you can’t sell fear – that will backfire in a second. You can’t build fear because the backlash from that would be incredible. That is why grocery stores don’t sell hurricane memberships or tornado restocking plans.

Yes fear drives change. Innovations don’t always drive change. Some do, the automobile was after a time an innovation that changed the world. The airplane was the same. But there is a lag there from innovation to wide spread adoption that many innovators fear.

What do you do from the time you create the idea, build the prototype and start selling your innovation to the time of mass adoption. People always point to the innovation of the iPhone. It was without a doubt an amazing innovation. It was however, 10 years into the cellular phone revolution. Had it come five years earlier with say 1,000,000 fewer applications it wouldn’t in the end have been as big a game changer.

I say this because I spend time with crowd funding projects. We talk about considering their total addressable market (TAM) as I talked about in my book on innovation. We also talk about the lag. How do you get from great idea to mass market if your TAM is in that mass market world. It can be a long time.

Cars first appeared in the mid 1890’s/ They weren’t mass produced until around 1910 and from there is is another 20 years before they truly become everywhere. The same is true for televisions, FM radios and so on. What does the innovator do while waiting.

First reality is of course there are pent-up markets. The light bulb and the iPhone both burst onto a market that had pent-up demand. Therefore they exploded from limited use to mass market very quickly. However that doesn’t happen often in a new or emerging market. Pent-up demand requires time. The market must exist.

I leave you with that question. In market without pent-up demand and a product that doesn’t have a fear delivery model how does the innovator pass the time from invention to mass market?


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow!