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After a quiet winter, spring and summer are THE seasons for industry expos, conventions and networking events galore. I’m an active Meetup.com user and a fan of searching out like-minded groups to discuss, share and challenge current ideas. An additional bonus is the privilege of discovering interesting projects that other startups in my sphere are working on. This is organic learning at its best. If you are super fortunate, you may even introduce potential allies to your own cause.

I understand that as a startup, I am not yet an established industry player or thought leader. I’m not party to scientific research, think tank round-tables or deep market insights… These types of privileged, and often pricey, knowledge are frequently predictors of new lines of business or entirely new industries. Small businesses rely on the “trickle-down” at community gatherings and events to tap into what’s upstream and learn from industry luminaries and watchers.

Look at the advent of foldable phones. Years ago, industry analysts forecast the eventual slowing of smartphone sales. The major phone makers responded by pouring resources into research and development of new, ultra-premium form factors. The hope is to re-ignite excitement and consumer interest ahead of the decreasing demand for $1000+ phones. A parallel goal is to combat market losses to mid-tier players offering more value-conscious $500 phones. (For most people, a single or dual 12 megapixel lens is quite enough; relax with the triple and quad lens 48 megapixel cameras). $1500 phone snobs don’t @ me!

If robust phone sales are important to your livelihood as an app developer or phone case designer — and you’ve been participating in, or closely watching your industry’s community — you’d also benefit by having your product/service roll-outs ready and tailored to these new phone designs when unleashed everywhere. If you’re only learning about this new category by watching News at 9pm, you are already very late.

Finding and remaining close to your industry’s knowledge centers of gravity is an ongoing and evolving challenge for any small business that wants to stay relevant or competitive. It could even decide who sinks or floats.

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