Are you pre-chasm?

The word 'chasm' refers to the deep difference that exists between the market of early adopters and the mainstream, and the difficulty of bringing a product that is successful in the former, to the latter. The definition of chasm, and advice to overcome it, is given in the famous book 'Crossing the chasm'. This book is a must-read for entrepreneurs that create innovative high-tech products, along with a few other books, including "The Innovator's Dilemma", 'The Lean Startup', and 'Start with Why' (I have not yet read the last one, but I was convinced by a fellow start-up creator that it deserves to be on that list!). Back to Crossing the chasm, what I loved about this book is that it helped me put words on the feelings and intuition I had regarding the innovation process, as well as better understand the behavior of prospects my associate and I have met when trying to sell our product.

The root cause of the chasm-crossing problem is that the mainstream (or the majority) is a self-referencing group. This means that any company in the majority (which represents about two thirds of your potential market, so we're talking about a lot of potential customers here) will only buy your product if other companies in the same group (i.e. other mainstream companies) have already bought it. This is a catch-22 situation (for non-native English speakers who don't know the expression, it means a paradoxical situation that results in unsatisfiable constraints, and was coined by Joseph Keller in his 'Catch-22' book). We happened to have witnessed this firsthand with questions like 'Is your language a standard?', 'How long has your software been used for?', and of course, 'Who are you already working with?', which are typical questions of the early and late majority. These questions are very much legitimate, we simply have no way of answering them until we have crossed the chasm!

According to Crossing the chasm, in order to sell an innovative technology to consumers in a given group, you must first sell it to consumers in the previous group. Following the technology adoption lifecycle, this means that as a company we must gather interest from innovators and early adopters. Technologists and visionaries. People who are comfortable with new technology, are not afraid of change, and are opinion leaders in their market. People who are pre-chasm. Are you pre-chasm?