From Flat to Fragmented: Observing the Impact of Sudden Jump in Complexity on Startup’s Development Journey

By | February 24, 2020

Source: Master’s thesis worker Anni Rahiala, based on Niti Bhan’s whiteboard sketch, Aalto Design Factory, Autumn 2019

With increasing diversity of factors that impact the product development journey comes increasing complexity in managing the product development process. For startups in particular, there is little difference between the startup’s development journey and the product development journey. Consider the phases of the startup development journey as illustrated by StartupCommons below:

Validation and Growth phases require iterative evolution of the startup’s offering as it seeks product/market fit and business model/market fit. That is, if one takes a multidisciplinary lens for evaluating these two phases, one can safely assume that in addition to the Technology and Engineering required for the service delivery (startups, as opposed to SMEs, tend to be based on some sort of novel technology or its application),the startup must also remain cognizant of the elements that will impact the design of the business model and the last mile interface between them and their future and potential customers (aka end users). That is, the nature of the startup itself implies the need to take a multidisciplinary lens to product and venture development, over time.

The sudden shock of the increase in complexity of the operating environment, such as happens when a Finland based startup seeks to enter the Kenyan market, has direct correlation to the concurrent increase in uncertainty and ambiguity that the startup development team must contend with as they seek to pilot, and iterate using the gathered feedback data, and discover a desirable, feasible, and viable product/market fit and business model/market fit, over time.

When operating environments have a significant amount of uncertainty and ambiguity, even more than startups in the developed world silicon centers experience, there are usually some factors in common across the consumer markets of the developing world. Lack of data, present or past, on consumers and their preferences & behaviours; inadequate marketing and business support systems; greatly different business and regulatory environments; a greater degree of variance in quality and availability of the necessary infrastructure and systems as enjoyed in the developed country context; are all factors common to the emerging and frontier markets. Here, tech startups focus on the mobile platform for delivery of their products and services, and, in many markets, to close the loop of transaction with an exchange of value as payment received.

Fintech, agritech, health tech, mobile money, remittances and cross border payments, loans and credit, insurance and healthcare requirements, are among the most popular verticals for startups to address in the various regions and countries of the African continent.



This blogpost was written by Niti Bhan on 24th February 2020 at 1824 hours EET, and is based on data gathered as part of the first data set required for her dissertation.

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