Expert Insights: Amanda Chen on adapting your Business Model and identifying your Risky Assumptions

The Rainmaking Expand: South Korea program is seeing some great progress with the startups who are looking to enter South Korea. The program is helping them assess their own business models, identify risk and weaknesses, and working with them to refine and strengthen it as they ramp up for South Korea.

In this series of articles, we will be covering some of the insights and learnings from the program by sitting down with the different speakers to hear their thoughts on the topics they specialise in.

In today’s post, we talk with Amanda Chen who has already run three different workshops in the program covering the important topics of adapting your business model for new markets and on identifying risky assumptions. Her workshops have been highly interactive and have enabled startups to see these steps in their growth from new perspectives.

Firstly, thank you Amanda for joining us and for taking the time to walk each startup through the different elements of your workshops while sharing your knowledge with the Rainmaking Expand: South Korea program. Since this discussion will be online to a broader audience who haven’t had the pleasure of attending your workshops, would you be able to give us a self-introduction?

Amanda: I’m Amanda Chen, Venture Architect and Program Director at Rainmaking. I began my career in private equity in Silicon Valley and was involved in a few late-stage startup investments, which opened my eyes to the world of startups. Startups inspired me through how they are fast, savvy, innovative they are in solving problems and challenging the status quo today. At Rainmaking, I build new startups with our corporate partners, as well as, coach startup founders through our different accelerator programs. Building new ideas and businesses is exciting yet challenging at the same time; having to continuously think ahead of the curve to build disruptive, profitable and impactful businesses. It gives me the satisfaction of creating something new and different to how things are done today. On the other hand, working with and coaching startup founders allows me to share my experiences, tools and mindset that enables them to de-risk the building process, which I absolutely love. Nothing gives me more fulfilment than to build new businesses as well as see founders have a change in mindset and approach when thinking about their business – which is why I continue to do what I do, either to build new startups or support the builders in the ecosystem.

Thank you, you’ve got a really great background and I can see how the startups in the Rainmaking Expand program have benefited from your knowledge and experience! From your perspective, what is the biggest mistake you see startups making when they expand, and how could they potentially avoid it?

Amanda: One of the biggest mistakes startups make when expanding to new markets is not speaking to customers early enough and not testing their assumptions soon enough before launching into the new market. Startups are aware and anticipate differences in the new market due to culture, regulations, competition, supply chain etc. However, startups need to already start testing a lot of these assumptions even BEFORE deciding if the market is the right one to expand to to begin with. You do so by first testing if customers actually want your product by speaking to customers there and gather the data points BEFORE you even launch and set up your operations and team in the new market.

That’s incredibly valuable information, and a very good point. Expanding on that, and based on the workshop you ran within the program on identifying and prioritising risky assumptions, what are your top 3 tips startups can consider around this?

Amanda: My top 3 tips would be:

  1. Start having conversations with potential customers and get their feedback on your proposition early. You need to make sure that you have a proposition that they are willing to pay for.
  2. Identify your sales channel. You should test which channel will be the most effective and cost effective one for your company.
  3. Test your value proposition with key partners that you have identified that would be crucial for your expansion into the new market
  4. Start having conversations with potential customers and get their feedback on your proposition early. You need to make sure that you have a proposition that they are willing to pay for.
  5. Identify your sales channel. You should test which channel will be the most effective and cost effective one for your company.
  6. Test your value proposition with key partners that you have identified that would be crucial for your expansion into the new market

Absolutely, and then opening up to a broader scope, you also talk a lot about how to adapt your business model for new markets, do you have advice for startups in this area too?

Amanda: My advice for startups looking to adapt their business models for a new market would be:

  1. Identify specific target customer segments and their pain points – these could be similar to the customer segments in your current market but startups need to be very clear on who specifically they are targeting as paying customers. The new market may have a different value chain configuration and stakeholders involved, so be sure to research the industry and identify who to target first.
  2. Design and curate your value proposition for that customer segment based on their needs – localize your messaging and proposition to suit the culture, behaviour and business etiquettes. (See our interview with Sofia for further advice on this)
  3. Think about what your company needs to do and the required resources that might be different from operations in your local market (i.e. partners and key resources). Consider how your supply chain will change in the new market and take these costs into consideration.
  4. Identify specific target customer segments and their pain points – these could be similar to the customer segments in your current market but startups need to be very clear on who specifically they are targeting as paying customers. The new market may have a different value chain configuration and stakeholders involved, so be sure to research the industry and identify who to target first.
  5. Design and curate your value proposition for that customer segment based on their needs – localize your messaging and proposition to suit the culture, behaviour and business etiquettes. (See our interview with Sofia for further advice on this)
  6. Think about what your company needs to do and the required resources that might be different from operations in your local market (i.e. partners and key resources). Consider how your supply chain will change in the new market and take these costs into consideration.

Thank you so much Amanda for taking the time with us to share your insights. I am sure we have all learned a great deal from your wisdom here.

Read more in our Expert Insights Series

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Written by
Meghan Bridges
June 14, 2022
Marketing Director, Rainmaking Expand

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