business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times had an interesting story the other day about how technology companies and Silicon Valley venture capital firms seem to be intrigued by the food industry - not because they see a clear path to big profits, but because "they see a big, slow-moving market just begging to be invaded by someone with new ideas and a new way of building a business."

The Times writes:

"Creating a successful food company requires a lot more than just a good idea. There are government rules and regulations and competition from entrenched conglomerates with vast distribution systems.

"These obstacles will not be easily overcome. But these start-ups are trying to do that by behaving like the most successful tech outfits that have gone from ideas to multibillion dollar businesses.

"Some have programmers writing code to test out snacks and determine the types of ingredients that can go together. Some approach management in the same way start-ups run their operations, using a process called Agile methodology, in which project managers work in very small teams with programmers and have software development practices like Scrum that are intended to move and build products very quickly.

"Essentially, they are organizing the development of food products in much the same way that tech start-ups organize code."

I have no idea if any of the examples cited in the piece can work or not. (I am a little dubious about the company called Chirp Farms that wants to make snacks out of crickets.)

But the larger point, whether you are a retailer or manufacturer, needs to be taken seriously - that an industry with deep roots and traditions and (some might say) legacy issues may be particularly vulnerable to competitors that simply refuse to see the world the same way.

When the Times wrote that "they see a big, slow-moving market just begging to be invaded by someone with new ideas and a new way of building a business," it may have been unintentionally echoing an ad campaign from Amazon.com, which said, in part, that its goal is to make sure "that once was wildly impractical is now completely normal. And normal just begs to messed with."

Be warned. This is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: