In case you haven't already heard, there's a little kitty out there with feline dwarfism that earns more than you do.
Grumpy cat, according to Wikipedia, seems to be raking in millions of dollars, and this might strike you as odd given how difficult it is to start a successful enterprise these days.
I thought it would be interesting to examine the grumpy cat phenomenon, and explore the reasons it has become viable overnight so that we can apply those lessons to our own lives, ventures and startups.
The grumpy cat meme
Grumpy cat (actually called Tardar sauce) first became famous when her owner (Tabatha Bundesen) posted her pic on Reddit. The kitty's appearance caused such a stir that it led to additional posting and pics to prove the original was authentic (i.e. not photoshopped).
Grumpy cat went viral, and then superviral as people began to share their own versions of the meme. I've even done it. My girlfriend loves grumpy cat, so I made my own valentine's card sporting a pic of Tardar:
Ok, so I probably shouldn't give up my day job. But, the point is that being a cultural icon that can readily be used, morphed and shared is arguably the primary reason that Tardar is so popular (well, that and being super cute).
So how do you take a kitty that everyone loves and turn it into a million dollars?
Grumpy cat's Facebook page is approaching nearly 4 million likes. That's publicity you can't buy.
T-shirts and mugs sporting everyone's favorite feline are sold from the website. Toys and other merchandise are also available. There's even an iced coffee called Grumppuccino available.
As Tardar's popularity grows, so the potential to generate more revenue from existing channels, and to explore new channels grows. I suspect that a cartoon TV series can't be too far off.
So what lessons can we learn and apply in our own lives?
Lessons from Grumpy cat
Hearing how this lovable kitty has become a one-way money making freight train might leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many entrepreneurs.
I, for example, am currently in the process of bringing a new route optimization product to market. It requires an understanding of NP-hard (that's non-deterministic polynomial hard) problems, and their solutions.
Said solutions need to use heuristic methods of solving these problems because of their complexity - I developed my own hybrid solution that utilizes elements of ACO (Ant Colony Optimization) and genetic algorithms to provide good solutions quickly.
UPS is doing the same thing, investing over $30 million over the next five years. We'll beat UPS to market (although they are developing the system for their own internal use), but there are other tech rivals out there.
That's harder than posting a picture of my kitty.
But, for anyone willing to learn, this particular success story has some fantastic lessons. Here's what I think all entrepreneurs should take from this...
1. The market leads
I guess this is arguably the most important takeaway for me.
CNET called Grumpy Cat the undisputed "biggest star" of SXSW Interactive over Elon Musk, Al Gore, and Neil Gaiman.
There's no point in asking what kind of a world we live in when a cute kitty with feline dwarfism steals the show from someone like Elon Musk (who's impact on our world is nothing short of staggering).
From a business perspective, the market doesn't care what you think, the market cares about whatever it cares about. If you are going to be successful, find a way to meet a demand. Simple as that.
2. Opportunity is all around you
Some people luck out, and find themselves in a position to capitalize on an opportunity that they haven't necessarily created themselves.
When Tabatha posted Tardar's pic on Reddit, she couldn't have planned for this runaway success to happen, right? No-one could. For most people, something like this won't happen. But, instead of lamenting the success of grumpy cat, look harder for opportunities in your own life.
The more you become proactive in your own life, and the more you seek opportunity, the more it will find you.
3. Opportunity wears many disguises
I think a problem that many people have is that they have a specific idea about the type of opportunity that they want to pursue. Life will always throw opportunity your way, the tricky part is to recognize it for what it is, and grab onto it.
No-one grows up saying they want to become a success by posting a pic of their kitty online. But it happened, because instead of leaving Reddit and the other social networks to their own devices, the Bundesens took full advantage of the opportunity.
4. Never underestimate the power of publicity
I recently attended the final round of a tech startup incubator's funding program. The ideas i saw were pretty good, and at least a few of them had real potential.
But, without exception, all of the entrepreneurs in charge recognized that marketing and promotions were their biggest challenges. It's a favorite saying of mine that "no matter what industry you are in, the business you are in is marketing".
Grumpy cat has caught the imagination of so many people. Millions of fans are engaged with the brand. No matter what niche you are in, if you can't convince people to like and engage with you, success will prove elusive.
5. Keep it simple
Making money and being successful doesn't require a degree in rocket science. It doesn't require an MBA from Harvard. People with those qualifications will end up working for your organization once it is profitable.
There is absolutely nothing earth shattering in the way grumpy cat has become viable. Their kitty started attracting fans and followers, so they started selling stuff to those people.
Unless it is your passion to work on super complex problems, don't. Find something you love doing (because this will make it easy for you to dedicate the time required to start up). Do it in a way that other people will respond to.
So those are my 5 most important business takeaways from the adorable grumpy cat. What other lessons do you think we can derive from this story?
Share your thoughts in the comments.