The Bowling Pin Strategy

bowling pin strategyA post by Chris Dixon highlighted the Bowling Pin Strategy which has become one of my favorite ways of thinking about how to attack markets.  The strategy was articulated by Geoffrey Moore of Crossing the Chasm fame and is explained well by Chris Spagnuolo in this post where he summarizes:

First, identify a vertical market where a broken mission-critical business process is causing management enough pain that it would gamble on an unproven technology; and second, provide that market not just a product, but a whole solution. Become #1 in that niche. Saturate the community. After you’re #1 in that niche, tip it and target another related market. Each new market should leverage the success and technology of the last. Even more importantly, because these markets are closely related, word of mouth credibility can cross markets and help you gain a stronghold across markets. This leads to the bowling pin effect of knocking down markets based on the successes in other related markets. Each market is another pin to be knocked down. Once you reach critical mass in three or four vertical markets, expand horizontally and whether you like it or not, enter the Tornado.

The Tornado emerges immediately once everyone decides they need the product or technology. This has an explosive amount of growth and just sucks every one in its vortex. It’s driven and sustained by the pragmatists. It’s a mass-market strategy. Here, everybody has to get the latest thing all at once.

I’ve been thinking about our strategy at CB Insights in these terms for a while.  And haven’t really talked about it a lot except internally as:

  1. We’re still early days on our first niche
  2. I’m not a big believer in the tell everyone your plans as you’ll get good feedback.  I actually do believe we have some keen insights into how what we’ve built can be used in other niches that others haven’t seen.  (Yes – perhaps I’m delusional)

But again, we are still early days.  We have found some very good niches for our data & analytics today, but we are playing the long-game and expect to “cross markets” and knock down others over time – one pin at a time.

2 Thoughts on “The Bowling Pin Strategy

  1. Pingback: Why Your Startup Should Go After a Small Market Opportunity

  2. Pingback: Kids Just Want Venture Capital

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