I usually coach high tech companies with patented (or at least patent pending) technologies. Patents make for such a nice, clean way of protecting sustainable value in a company. But they're not appropriate in every situation, particularly among online businesses. So how do you stay ahead of the competition when you've got no legal - and relatively few financial - barriers to entry? Especially if you're an online-based service business doing something that it seems like a ton of people are doing already?
Nothing Succeeds Like Success
Stephanie McLarty runs REfficient, one of the 14 Canadian companies I'm coaching for the TechConnect World Expo next week. REfficient is "The World's Sustainable Marketplace", a service that helps corporations dispose of "surplus assets" such as obsolete servers, switches and the like that are otherwise gathering dust and storage fees (or just valuable space at the company). As the push to be green grows and waste disposal regulations tighten up, it gets more complicated and expensive to deal wtih those assets, which is why they end up in a storage closet somewhere. But still, dozens of companies have offered green solutions to surplus asset disposal, none of which to my knowledge has taken the world by storm. Why is this one different?
In fact, Stephanie herself started one of those dozens of companies before launching REfficient... but wasn't satisfied with the limited success she achieved. But there's a reason she has been recognized by Ernst & Young, IEC and WEConnect International, as well as Profit magazine, as an entrepreneur to watch: she learned from the experiences at the first company, applied them to the current one and is already, in one year, operating at a 28% gross margin, debt-free, having dealt with 252 metric tons of surplus assets.
There are other things that REfficient's done well: They started with niche customers with a lot of market pain in a sector where they have well-established networks and understand the equipment they are repurposing. And my favorite, they are continually innovating to make themselves more valuable to their clientele. And that's how they've already reached $500K in revenue. Sounds so simple, doesn't it? That's why you'll always hear about how companies fail due to a lack of execution more often than to a failure of technology. Stephanie and her team are executing really well and I'm sure will continue to do so.
If you'd like to learn more, I encourage you to attend their pitch by registering for TechConnect World Expo and attending the Consulate General of Canada Boston's all day Canada Innovates clean energy conference, including pitches by 14 Canadian companies with a broad range of technologies.
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