Pattern Recognition

“We have no future because our present is too volatile.  We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition…”

– William Gibson

I do not read a lot of fiction.   I like to learn not be entertained by books (that’s what video is for) but when my friend Craig Wortmann suggested a novel about a “cool hunter” that was touted by the Economist. I had to check it out. That is how, several years ago I came to read Pattern Recognition. A fantastic novel by William Gibson that I chewed up in a lost weekend, it also gave me a term for a core skill of mine (“pattern recognition” not “cool hunter”) that until then had eluded definition in my own mind.

I am reminded of the book constantly as I review start-up concepts and develop strategies.  I looked at three concepts at various stages of development yesterday and 1 thing struck me. They are all taking recognizable patterns and applying them to new areas.  Proven models for customer development, solution evolution and business models applied to a new target audience.  Using an existing pattern can help entrepreneurs to quickly identify customer hypotheses, business models and tactics for testing them. It can help investors to understand a big idea in a snapshot.  It can help early adopters to understand the mission and focus of a start-up allowing them to better evangelize.

The result of looking for patterns can be obvious or not so obvious but is always helpful.  The result of this search often produces what VC Hacks calls the “high concept” pitch.  This is taken from the movie business where script pitches are typically described in mash-ups of previous hits ie. The movie Alien is simply “Jaws in space”.  What is your companies pitch?  If you don’t know, then its time to recognize the pattern.

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