7 Questions Every Business Must Answer
From Peter Thiel’s “Zero to 1,” chapter 13:
“Technology”: a new way of doing things, the application of knowledge to practical purposes
1. Engineering: can you create breakthrough technology, not incremental?
2. Timing: is now the right time to start a business?
3. Monopoly: are you starting with a big share of a small market?
4. People: do you have the right team?
5. Distribution: do you have a way to not just create but deliver your technology to those who will consume it?
6. Durability: will your market position be defensible for 10-20 years in the future?
7. Secret: have you identified a unique opportunity others don’t see?
Parallel questions can be asked by those trying to pioneer a mission startup to catalyze a church planting movement. All of the processes involved in a CPM (such as a Discovery Bible Study, how disciples make disciples, how they pass it on, specific trainings, the reproducibility of baptism) are “technologies” (the application of knowledge to practical purposes). Simply reading Scripture and saying “how do we do this” (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:26) is developing a technology, in a sense. These technologies can be “breakthrough technologies” if the enable the Gospel to spread widely through a culture (obviously some Western “technologies” create barriers in non-Western areas).
Timing is also critical. There is an obvious before-and-after moment in Albania. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be trying to do something now in North Korea but the timing would be improved if the closed government there fell.
Monopoly: better to start in a defined place and with a defined people. The most fragile time for a movement is the early stage. We see this with Ebola. Zeynep, “The real reason everyone should panic,” is illustrative of the other side: the desire to kill a movement or epidemic in its early stage before it reaches multiplication. Her article illustrates why getting to larger population levels as rapidly as possible is desirable in our case. Control measures become difficult when thousands of people are involved. Once the million-person line is crossed, it becomes nearly impossible. Getting to thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and then to a million as rapidly as possible is critical.
People: lots more could be written about getting the right team. The right vision is an important filter for the right team. Best filter is John Knox: “Give me _x_ or I die.” The whole of X, not just a sub section of it.
Distribution: need some form of viral distribution method, but conversations with David B & others suggest that distribution methods differ in urbanist cultures vs rural cultures. In urbanist cultures messages are not passed as easily via word of mouth. There are a lot more gatekeepers who can stop, and the relationships are far more shallow. Understanding this is undoubtedly going to be very important and an area for study in 2015. Mass media will play a stronger role in urban areas, DB argues, and I think he’s likely right.
Durability: this is the big deal for CPMs. Catalysts have to be engaged for a long time. It can take 2+ years just to find the initial early adopters. If a given target area (a country, province, district, city, whatever) can kick the catalysts out before the movement starts (effectively killing the movement by dealing with “Patient Zero”) then the movement can be cancelled there. This is one of the reasons I theorize its so hard to do something in places like Turkey, Central Asia stans, Libya, etc. The populations are more controlled and in many cases are much smaller, so chokepoints are easier.
Secret: Thiel’s argument about secrets is that they are “hidden opportunities” or things that most people have overlooked. For us we can think of them as unique or creative access points into a particular area, previously unseen platforms of blessing.