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How to estimate market size March 16, 2011

Posted by jeremyliew in startups, VC.

As an entrepreneur, your time is a very valuable asset. It takes as much time and effort to build a business whether you’re attacking a small market or a big one. But the rewards for success in a big market are much greater, so it makes sense to attack big markets.

For the same reason,VCs are often very focused on market size. But there is is a lot of confusion about how to estimate market size. While you might play in a big industry, it is the Total Addressable Market size (TAM) that is really important.

TAM is really a pretty simple concept – it is what your revenue would be if you had 100% market share in your business. This is often radically different from what an analyst report estimates as market size as their view of the “market” can be quite different from what your product can address. Here is an excellent analysis from VigLink of their TAM:

Viglink allows publishers to put commerce links into their content with a universal affiliate code, and then tracks sales that originate from those links and pays out the affiliate fee. As you can see above, they have done a really nice job of starting with an enormous “market size” ($600bn+ ecommerce market) and broken it down into what is addressable by them, the network payout piece of commissions coming from affiliate orginated ecommerce transactions, which is still a $1b+ opportunity.

I’d urge other entrepreneurs to conduct similarly realistic analysis when they present market size estimates.


How to deal with bad PR March 5, 2011

Posted by jeremyliew in PR.

The Economist has published a couple of interesting articles about how to deal with bad PR recently.

The first suggests that it is better to ignore bad PR than to fight it:

…rebuttals are unwise, argue Derek Rucker and David Dubois, of the Kellogg School of Management, and Zakary Tormala, of Stanford business school, three psychologists. By restating the rumours, Coke helps to propagate them. Its web page is a magnet for search engines. And people who read rebuttals tend to forget the denial and remember only the rumour, says Mr Rucker.

As information is passed around, important qualifiers are lost. A rumour may start as “I’m not sure if this is true, but I heard that…” Then it evolves into: “I heard that…” Finally it becomes: “Did you know that…?” Even when no one intends to spread falsehoods, they spread.

The second suggest that for startups and other unknowns, bad PR is better than no PR:

…if your starting point is obscurity, even bad publicity may be helpful, argues Alan Sorensen, an economics professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. He looked at the effect of book reviews in the New York Times. In a study published inMarketing Science*, he found that well-known authors who earned glowing reviews for a new book could expect to sell 42% more copies, whereas a negative review caused sales to drop by 15%. For unknown authors, however, it did not matter whether a book was panned or lauded. Simply being reviewed in the Times bumped up sales by a third.

Mr Sorensen extrapolated his findings to other businesses. For small brands fighting for recognition in crowded markets, almost any publicity is beneficial, he reckons. One reason is that, for lesser-known brands, negative perceptions fade more quickly in consumers’ minds than their general awareness of the product.

If you’ve had bad PR around your startup, let me know what you think.