You can often find resources about how to shape the culture inside your company – this is extremely important, as it would determine how well your business would function in the long run.
However, as a startup, influencing the values and behavior of people outside of your organization is equally if not more important than influencing the people inside your business.
Every business has to do this to a degree – in order to get people to become your customers, you need to change their habits and behavior, and this is hard to do without understanding their values. Why the (target) market behaves the way it does is the most important thing for any business to understand.
However, for a startup, this task is made harder by the fact that the project is introducing some form of innovation into the market. This means that the change in behavior is by definition starker, and in some cases, it might require a change in values.
In a way, all startups are connected with a new cultural wave, and the most innovative and influential startups are the initial force that sets those cultural revolutions in motion.
For example, Microsoft was the beginning of the personal computer revolution, Apple – the smartphone, Facebook was the beginning of modern social media, Tesla was the beginning of modern electric vehicles, Bitcoin – of the blockchain revolution, etc.
While these are the most obvious examples, each innovative startup plays the role of a culture driver at least in some domain on a certain scale.
Needless to say, changing human behavior en masse is very hard. In order to do it intentionally, you need to understand the underlying values that drive the behavior of all the stakeholders in a particular market.
A great illustration of this effect is Tesla. It is a surprising fact that electric vehicles were relatively common in the very early days of the automobile. What made internal combustion engine cars the standard is the falling price of fuel – so, due to economic factors the electric vehicle producers of the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century didn’t succeed.
So, what changed in the early 21st century that allowed Tesla to succeed? First– much better battery technology driven by laptops and smartphones. Second and equally importantly – widespread enough environmental consciousness. Preserving the environment is a much more common value nowadays than it was 100 years ago. This value is what helped Tesla find its first customers and investors (sustainability is one of the reasons Elon Musk was interested in starting a car company in the first place).
Consequently, Tesla managed to find success by riding both a technological and a cultural wave. Later on, when the success and influence of the company grew, they became one of the forces that determine the direction of that cultural wave.
This is a model that any innovation needs to follow in order to be successful. There are cultural movements in each nook and cranny of society, and being at the forefront of one is vital.
This is why timing is one of the crucial success factors for any innovative project – knowing what problem you are solving and what vision of the future you are aiming for (determined by your values) is crucial in order to inspire people to change their behaviors.