Small market: curse or opportunity?
In my opinion, frequent mistake for founders is aim for very big market immediately. While prominent tech figures champion approach "go big or fail", I argue that each startup has some growth stages which it needs to complete before it can proceed to the another step.
Your goal should be to become monopoly, as otherwise it is a very tough space to be as startup and become 10x better than other existing solutions. Therefore, initially you should define your market as narrow as possible - the strategy which may sound counterintuitive.
For example, our product CityNow.org - real estate map - quickly became a leading platform to find new construction home in Vilnius. The market is restrained, since 30% of transactions are in new primary market (new construction) and 80% in Lithuanian sales in its capital, Vilnius. Such strategy allowed us to win and we can now expand to other markets.
So many startups tried to compete with major listing real estate portal and failed, since they were doing exactly the same thing for same large market.
When you are a monopoly, good things start to happen - word of mouth, referals, negotiating and pricing power. My advice to all other founders would be to redefine and narrow your market until you become a monopoly and stay here as long as possible. Good luck :)
Justas from Qoorio asked:
“Vilius, you were a very successful engineer, had a great position at Facebook. What made you come back to Lithuania and start your own company in real estate?”
In short, when my qooriosity to approach some problems in real estate industry became bigger than excitement to work on solutions at my organization at Facebook that was the moment when I decided to quit and start my own business.
First, I am not outsider in real estate business. Back in 2006, I was market analyst for the biggest real estate development company in Lithuania. I knew what are the biggest pain-points (not vitamins) while working on my daily tasks. For example, one of the challenges is to collect market intelligence efficiently: track your competitors, their sales, determine market trends. When I started my business in 2018, I knew exactly what needs to be built and the journey was much straighter. Today the business is growing, adding new customers every month an expanding range of services. For almost 10 years I thought spending so much time in unrelated industry (I am software engineer) was wasteful, but now I find it super valuable.
Second, throughout 7 years of career at Facebook, I gathered enough experience which I need to build new product. I grew up corporate ladder to become senior engineer and also tried management role. I took advantage of many training programs - one of key advantages of big-tech to get new skills. I worked with some of the most talented data scientists, product designers, researchers in the world and learned from them. I also have adapted culture from Facebook - good things take stamina and time to build. CityNow, new construction map I currently work, will take years to perfect - but I am commited to work it out :)
Last, It felt that its time to give back to community where I grew up - starting from Vilnius, my hometown. It felt that I was net gainer from growing here (free education, medical insurance, no student debts, etc) and decided to contribute back by sharing my knowledge of building products, helping other to choose their dream home, and maybe - inspire someone else to go back to Lithuania and make impact.
Interesting to discover yet undiscovered. Sunday trip to the newly opened Dūmų fabrikas [Spaces for your events and cultural activities at Dūmų street 5, LT-11119, Vilnius]. Unfortunately, we didn't get inside, but the old-new harmony around fascinated me.