This weekend I came across an interesting article in the MIT Technology Review that illustrates how important it is to design the right business model at the right time - even around an old technology. The text was about Bryce Benjamin who created a startup around the technology of "statistical machine translation". What struck me was how he drew a link between the needs of two groups of customers, the deparment of homeland security & multinationals with multilingual needs, and the product of relatively accurate machine translations.
In fact this nicely illustrates one of the main axis of business model design - the one between value propositions that match the needs of lucrative customer segments. Mr. Benjamin immediately drew the link between a relatively old technology (statistical machine translation) and a security apparatus equipped with pockets of cash that has a strong need for tools that can screen foreign language news broadcasts, chat rooms and websites. He founded Language Weaver a 35-person strong startup to improve machine translation and targeted the two big customer segments just discussed.
What I learned from this is that some people have a gift to see the link between needs emerging in the market and underexploited technologies that lie there to be picked up... With the right business model design and the right timing Bryce Benjamin might have struck a little gold mine.