The Runway Technique: Building traction before taking off

Eloi Montes is the CEO of Tipsterchat, an APP for sports betting fans to connect with Tipsters. Tipsters are insiders with experience and knowledge in a particular sport who share the juiciest tips and bets in exchange for a small payment.

The APP is rapidly growing, with over 200 Tipsters and hundreds of thousands of followers in Spain, Brazil, and Mexico. Tipsters love being on the platform. It allows them to charge for their tips easily and exposes them to other audiences.

Before any APPs were available to offer his services, Montes was originally a Tipster. He operated under TIPSTERAPUESTA, offering tips on tennis matches via Twitter and Telegram, with followers paying through a Paypal link. The experience was clunky, but the “tips” were valuable, and his customer base grew.

Through this journey, Eloi Montes identified an opportunity that led to Tipsterchat. He realized that his current channels lacked certain features to serve better and monetize his followers. What’s more, Eloi understood fellow Tipsters must have similar needs. He had validated and built a market. Now, he needed to capture the full value of it.

Montes’s story provides a relevant lesson for innovators and entrepreneurs: build traction - interest, and growth - before you create your channel to scale.

Entrepreneurs obsess over the channel through which they will deliver value to customers. They invest time and cash in tech development before launching. Once built, it’s costly to change technology. Often, these same entrepreneurs find themselves months down the road with a great APP, but with no money left and no traction.

The Runway technique suggests starting the business backward: first, traction, then the channel. The key is understanding who your customer is and how to start delivering the most simple bite-size amount of value you can provide - through whatever medium you can find.

Danielle Morrill used a personal blog to build her startup, Mattermark. Now reportedly worth over $40M, it is a business intelligence technology that searches the web to provide Venture funds with startup insights to make investment decisions.

Her first step? She wrote a post that ranked Y Combinator startups by an index she and her colleagues created. The post went viral, which led to more articles ranking other portfolios, such as 500 Startups and TechStars.

“Many commenters and friends have asked why I’m doing this and not working on my startup. In case it wasn’t obvious, this is our startup, and these posts are our MVP.” Morrill announced on the same blog.

Serial entrepreneurs and brothers Naval Ravikant and Babak Nivi found a similar path. Together, they nurtured an audience through the Venture Hack Blog. This blog became Angel list, the world’s number one platform to invest in startups and find the best tech talent, now worth Billions of Dollars.

Email is also a great way to start reaching your audience. The world’s top classified advertisements platform, Craigslist - worth $700M as of this writing, began as a newsletter. Craig Newmark, the founder, simply sent out a “list” of notices of social events of interest to software and Internet developers living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Runway technique makes sense for those trying to build a platform, marketplace, or community-based business. These entrepreneurs must ask: Who are my customers? What can I offer? How can I start list-building? How can I kick off a movement?

Once you can answer these questions, you are ready to scale your business. Building your APP or platform is then a great way to capture the value generated. And that is perhaps Eloi Montes’s most valuable tip.

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