I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot recently.
Since a large part of our thematic focus (and portfolio share) is focused on the configuration of the retail store the question of how it will be tackled is top of mind. And based on this CB Insights data, we’re not alone.
I think the general rule that applies to the physical world as applies to software. Master your domain before you add others. And so the successful physical retail companies of the future will be one of three things:
- Microservices that do one thing well or
- Platforms connecting the above or
- Mature companies assembling a full-stack offering of the above two (think Salesforce).
I don’t think this rule applies to solely software services. I think it’s true for items that appear in the physical world.
If you want to be a full-stack physical retail company and you want to tackle the entire store at one time (POS, fulfillment, analytics, digital interactions) you need to do it over time. Otherwise your success will be leveraged against your ability to execute a lot of complex things simultaneously.
That approach never works. Founders who think they can do that as an early stage startup are crazy. I have some experience with this topic.
Not to be cliche but I’m reminded of a well articulated line of thinking from Sam Altman.
Very often, the first thing we do is help hard tech founders find a small project within their larger idea that fits the model of quick iteration and requires a relatively small amount of capital. This project is often the smallest subset of their technology that still matters to some user or customer. It may at first look like a detour, but it’s a starting point that lets founders build measurable momentum–for themselves, for recruiting employees, and for attracting investors.